Panama City Beach, Cancun, South Padre Island — popular spring break destinations for students looking to blow off some steam. Shanghai doesn’t normally fit with the group, but eight students are spending their week off in the second largest city in China.
Members of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming set up the trip meant primarily to introduce students to the leadership responsibilities of students at Shanghai University.
“It’s important, getting to find out how different methods of student government and different plans, projects and programs other student governments have,” ASUW President Brian Schueler said. “We may not adopt all of those ideas, but certainly learning about new systems and new ideas, we might be able to find some pieces to bring back to the U.S.”
Schueler and ASUW Vice President Emily Kath are leading the six other students for the week-long stay. At this point, a trip to China is just another flight for Schueler — this is his seventh time to the country, and he’s excited to show the China to the students.
“I think I’ll have the most fun being a culture guide,” he said. “I’ve been to these areas before, but it’s always fun to see people experiencing the Chinese cultures. This will be a fantastic time for everyone. It’s a new experience for everyone on the trip, including myself.”
This trip is unique from any previous trip — no faculty or staff are taking the trip across the Pacific. Sara Axelson, vice president for student affairs, said funding was a major deterrent.
“For this particular trip, there was really no money to pay for faculty, staff or to help the students,” she said. “They received some funding from the Cheney International Center, but they still paid $800 each.”
These are mostly travel expenses — once there, Shanghai University will take them on all-expenses-paid tours of the university and parts of Shanghai.
Axelson is confident the group will be just fine.
“I feel totally confident with this delegation going without faculty or staff,” she said.
Schueler is also confident everything will go smoothly.
“We have three people who speak Chinese by design,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that, if there’s an emergency and we’re not with people from (Shanghai University), we have plenty of individuals who can navigate and be comfortable in that setting.”
UW has a long history with Shanghai University, Axelson said. Originally, only faculty and staff from the schools would travel and observe how different administration and planning work and possibly take back new ideas.
“We’ve learned about the protocols and policies about how they deal with residence life and their code of conduct,” she said. “We’ve had their faculty come and teach here, and we’ve sent faculty there.”
The first student delegations began taking trips to China in about 2008, and Schueler said he’s happy to make this year’s trip.
“I’m glad student government gets to play a much more prominent role in continuing that relationship,” he said.