Champlain Students Hike on the Great Wall of China

While many college students were heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, a class of 16 Champlain College students were bound for Beijing, China, for a 10-day trip to experience the culture, food and ancient sites of China.

The trip, led by Champlain Core Adjunct Professor Rob Williams and Assistant Professor Kristin Wolf, gave juniors and seniors who had been studying the culture of "New China" a first-hand look at the historic Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City along with a modern-day, post 2008 Olympics city.

The group traveled to Beijing as part of the third-year global perspective Core course, China Mojo (mobile journalism), taught by Williams of Waitsfield. This year marked Williams' fourth trip to China with members of Champlain College. This spring, he will start a new tradition by taking 15 students to Jordan during spring break.

The group's itinerary while in Beijing included three days on various sections of the Great Wall of China, with the remainder of the time spent in downtown Beijing. Students experienced all that the city had to offer — history, food and drink, education, shopping and various other distinctive cultural aspects of China. In preparation for their trip, students primarily studied the Cultural Revolution under communist leader Chairman Mao from in 1949 until his death in 1976. They continued through the decades up to modern day "New China," which emerged in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Today, one can still see traces of Mao's influence and changes made for the 2008 Olympics everywhere.

Students faced a culture shock, but were surprised by how much Western influence there was in China. There could not have been a better, nor safer time for the group to travel to Beijing. Security was high around the city in response to the 18th Party Congress and the naming of the new leader of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, the weekend prior to their arrival.

On their sixth day in Beijing, students traveled to Tsinghua University to sit in on an English class taught by native Vermonter, Jimmy Ronner. After a presentation made by the Chinese students, everyone was put into groups to discuss the perceptions of American and Chinese cultures. "While at the University we got a sense of Chinese culture as a whole, and saw the power that the single-party government had over everything," said Jim Courtney '13.

For each student's final, Williams had him or her compose a list of the 10 most valuable take-aways from the trip experience and integrate embedded media to represent the revelations. They also included components of the four books they read about Chinese culture throughout the semester. The goal of the trip was to expose students to Chinese culture and hopefully make them feel comfortable enough to return in the future, whether for business or pleasure.

To view a final blog post, visit

For more information about Champlain College's relationship with China, learn about the Stiller School of Business' Shanghai Internship Program, made possible by a grant from the Freeman Foundation, at

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit