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Midwest in the Far East - Math Ed 6

 Forbidden City in China


Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, is a metropolis with a mixture of glossy skyscrapers and stadiums with historical palaces and temples. The center of the city holds cultural treasures like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, structures that were created hundreds of years ago. Different districts contain prime examples of Beijing’s modern architecture, like the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube aquatics center from the 2008 Summer Olympics. Receiving a major face-lift for the international sporting event, the city has become more hospitable to foreigners, with additional subway lines and plenty of English-friendly restaurants and stores. This has come at a cost to the 19 million residents though. The government has been replacing residential neighborhoods with new shops and malls. This delicate balance of old and new makes Beijing one of the most distinctive cities in the world.


The Beauty of Beijing

In Beijing, students studied the Chinese firsthand by touring the country’s capital. They visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the two biggest destinations in the city. Tour guide David Li brought the study abroad group first to the square, carrying a Packers Super Bowl Championship flag to help students find him in the dense crowds.

While some snapped photos and posed for pictures, others felt a foreboding feeling as they remembered the bloody protests that took at the square in June 1989.

“I feel like we are standing on hallowed ground,” UW Oshkosh math professor Jen Szydlik said.

Equally as eerie were the dozens of cameras mounted on every single light pole on the square, watching the visitors’ every move.

The study abroad group also explored the vast palaces of the Forbidden City, and played Hacky Sack, paddle ball and lined danced with locals at the Temple of Heaven. Near the end of the three-week trip, the students climbed up the steep stone stairs of the Great Wall of China, where the usually talkative group was rendered speechless by the expanse and beauty of the structure and its surroundings.

Lessons Learned


UWO math education students at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Titans at the Temple: UW Oshkosh math education in China students at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.


On the students’ final night in China, the group gathered for one last banquet meal. Faculty trip leader Kuennen got slightly emotional when he toasted the group. He recounted the early days when the students would cling to him, like a small child to a parent. But now, he said, they’ve left the nest.

“These last few days I’ve felt useless,” he said, adding that the students were now experts in exploring the city by taxi or even by rickshaw without any assistance.

Kuennen, who has led three study abroad trips in the past five years, said his favorite moment in China occurred when a student approached him at one of the temples. The student was so moved by beauty of the sacred grounds that she said to him, “Thank you for bringing me here.”

Kuennen paused, his eyes watering, recounting that moment. “That just touched my heart,” he said. “That’s the reason I do this.”

A few weeks after returning to Oshkosh, the students reminisced about their time in the Far East and what they took away from that experience.

“I learned more than I thought I would. Not only just about math in the classrooms, but I learned about the people there and the culture,” junior Ryan King said. “I’ve known all along that I wanted to be a teacher, but really this experience opened up my eyes the greater things I can do in a classroom … how much of an impact I can have on these kids.”


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