While a large portion of IU students migrated south to spend their break lounging on a warm beach, a smaller portion of students traveled across the ocean to continue their studies.
Media School students enrolled in MSCH-X 478: Media and Culture in China spent their spring breaks in Beijing, where they studied the transformation of the Chinese media environment.
This is only one of many Spring break programs offered to IU students. Other options for students are Orlando Theme Parks: The Masters of Integrated Marketing, Reporting War and Peace in Okinawa, Community Development/Media Growth, Education/Financial Literacy and Rural Poverty & Homelessness.
Senior Elizabeth Roell said via WeChat, an app which made communication from China more convenient, that the course was perfect for her because she never had the opportunity to study abroad for the standard full semester, but this still provided her with the international experience she wanted before graduating.
“I think the biggest takeaway for me is viewing my own world in a more global context,” Roell said in the message. “It has given me a better, fuller understanding of China and Chinese culture and society.”
This trip to China is just the travel component of a four-credit, semester-long course, in which students study Chinese history and media and specifically the cultural and political pressures that determine how the media in China operates.
Throughout their time in China, students had a mixture of tourist and educational experiences. These included a day trip to the Great Wall of China, the Chaoyang Theater Acrobat Show, the Forbidden City, Caixin Magazine and the United States embassy.
While in Beijing, students had the opportunity to meet and work with scholars and professionals whose in-depth understanding of the Chinese media helped cultivate the students’ understanding Roell said in the message.
Although Roell said adapting to the Chinese culture was a challenge because of the language barrier, she said it was easier to understand the culture when she worked with professionals because they focused the experience on student learning.
The Chinese media is mostly characterized by a mixture of cultural practices and communist values, which can make it difficult for journalists and other media organizations to work independently from the government because of the restrictions the government puts in place, sophomore Sarah Addison said via WeChat.
One location students visited was Caixin Magazine, which, unlike most Chinese news publications, is not owned by the state.
“During the visit, Caixin representatives shared with students the challenges of investigative journalism, the way the publication operates within the boundaries of state owned media and topics that they feel are necessary to publish and make known to their target audience,” Addison said in the message.
Although many of the conversations students had while in China were off-the-record, Addison said the representatives she spoke to from Caixin Magazine made it clear that journalists are not simply tools for the government, which she said is a common stereotype because of the regulations they face.
“Amid heavy media regulations from the government, a few publications still manage to distribute media from an independent standpoint,” Addison said via WeChat.
The students in MSCH-X 478: Media and Culture in China spent the first part of their semester learning about and analyzing the cultural and political differences in China and its effect on Chinese media, but Roell said that after seeing these differences firsthand, she can’t wait to discuss them further.
However different the Chinese media may be from Western media, Roell said one aspect of learning Chinese culture that interested her was realizing how similar the people were.
“When you have an experience like this and spend time with people who are different than you, you not only learn about your differences, but you see how similar you actually are,” Roell said via WeChat.
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