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SMC promotes Asian study abroad programs

Rebecca O'Neil | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saint Mary’s promoted its Asian study abroad programs with mooncakes and music at a celebration of Chinese and Korean harvest festivals Monday afternoon in the Student Center.

The event, sponsored by the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), commemorated the Chinese festival Zhongqui Jie, or “Mid-Autumn Festival,” and the Korean festival Chuseok.

Alice Yang, assistant director for global education, said she hopes students take advantage of the College’s four study abroad programs in Asia.

“We have summer and semester programs in China and Korea, and we’ve been looking for a partner in India to exchange students with as well,” Yang said. “Each culture has its own uniqueness and different viewpoints. [Study abroad] encourages students to broaden their viewpoints, especially when the economy in Asia is growing so fast.”

Past participants in the Asian programs gathered at the celebration to commemorate the Mid-Autumn Festival, an ancient Chinese tradition to commemorate the moon.

Junior Alyssa Carty studied in Seoul, Korea, during her sophomore year. She said her experience tasting new foods and working with 300 other international students at the Seoul Women’s University was invaluable.

“We became a big family,” Carty said. “Now I feel like I can go anywhere in the world and find someone I’ve bonded with.”

Junior Kari Keller works as the peer advisor for the Chinese study abroad programs. She shared her experiences of the Forbidden City, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tianamen Square when she was in China last year.

Her favorite part of the trip was a visit to Buddhist nuns, Keller said.

“They said their rice would be the best meal we had ever tasted because they prayed over it,” she said. “I was like, ‘sure,’ but tasting it was something else. I had a lot of rice that trip.”

Junior Pei Zheng, a Chinese native, explained the Mid-Autumn Festival traditions to the group as everyone sampled mooncakes, songpyeon, egg rolls, hot oolong and green tea.

“Although thousands of years old, [the festival] is really important in modern Chinese culture,” Zheng said.

During the Zhongqiu Jie, Zheng said the Chinese munch on mooncakes, a delicacy made from lotus seed paste, under a full moon. She added that those who are unable to see their families on the special festival take comfort knowing they are looking at the same moon as their loved ones.

This year, Zheng said the Korean Chuseok festival fell on the same date as the Chinese festival. Chuseok is a three-day festival celebrated near the autumn equinox.

The festivities ended with a Chinese song featuring the lyrics, “No matter how far away we are, we enjoy the same moon,” and a Korean pop song by the group First Generation.

Yang praised the study abroad experience as an opportunity to learn about another culture and to make international connections.

“That’s the point,” Yang said. “Students have the opportunity to come here,and we are able to send our students there. Everyone learns from each other.”