Regional Initiatives Bring the Classroom to Life During Summer Trips to China, India
Students met with Huawei executives in Shenzhen and rural farmers in Maharashtra as they conducted meetings, research, and interviews with local stakeholders on summer trips with the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues and the India Initiative.
The Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue conducted a 10-day study tour with 11 graduate students, exploring the theme of China’s 40 years of “Reform and Opening Up.” The tour was sponsored by the Hong Kong-based China United States Exchange Foundation and led by U.S.-China Dialogue Managing Director Dennis Wilder.
“Amidst rising trade tensions and increased economic conflict between the United States and China, this trip came as a timely reminder of what is at stake if both sides are unable to peacefully resolve the trade war,” says Wilder.
Led by India Initiative Director Irfan Nooruddin and School of Foreign Service (SFS) professor Mark Giordano, the India Innovation Studio is a yearlong SFS Centennial Lab—experiential learning courses that allow students to apply theoretical and practical solutions to an issue, idea, problem, or challenge in a real community.
India Innovation Studio coursework is complemented by spring break and summer trips to India, when students travel to the places where their projects are implemented and meet with partner NGOs and local government leaders.
Appreciating the Complexity
Now in its third year, the India Innovation Studio has developed real projects related to drought, public health, and irrigation infrastructure, primarily in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. The trips encourage students to think from a local perspective and improve the projects they developed from afar.
“Students had to react to new data, observe new patterns, and engage new perspectives, and had the opportunity to share their accumulated expertise in irrigation governance with the partners they engaged in India,” says Nooruddin of their most recent trip.
After a year of studying irrigation infrastructure, this summer students spent eight days in villages not reached by the canal system, working with NGOs to learn more about the technology and adoption of water capture systems, and discussing infrastructure projects in the war room of Maharashtra’s chief minister.
“I thought I appreciated India’s complexity and dynamic after the class, but I had no sense of scale until I stepped into Mumbai,” says Jan Menafee (SFS’20), a student in the India Innovation Studio.
The India Innovation Studio trips are supported by the Jin and Jennifer Lee Centennial Lab Curricular Innovation Fund and the Schorr Global Experience Current Use Fund, which reduce the cost of travel and accommodation for students participating in SFS Centennial Labs like this.
Hearing from Experts
Students in China attended meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, and the Huawei headquarters, among other high-level visits with government officials, business leaders, and top scholars in Beijing, Guiyang, and Shenzen.
“Considering the U.S. trade war with China, Huawei was an amazing choice to include in our trip” said Peter Lee (MSFS’19). “Specifically, I was excited to engage with Huawei’s Public Policy Team and how they perceived the United States’ constant criticisms towards them.”
Hearing from stakeholders on-the-ground—tech executives, chief ministers, and farmers alike—was a key goal of both trips, illuminating lessons learned in the classroom through personal interactions.
“The opportunity to talk to farmers, watershed conservationists, and government officials in situ brought home the theories and ideas our class had been working on for the previous nine months,” says Nooruddin.
“I couldn't ignore how central their communities, inclusivity practices, and care for each other (the more intangible aspects that are difficult to study) were to the impact we were trying to measure,” says Siona Sharma (SFS’20), who spent the remainder of her summer as a war room intern in the Chief Minister's Office after her trip to Maharashtra.
‘The Most Valuable Experience’
Despite the different academic and professional backgrounds of the students, the firsthand exposure provided additional context to anyone interested in modern life, business, and governance in India and China.
“As an aspiring diplomat, I enjoyed learning firsthand from Chinese officials and scholars about their perspective on the future of U.S.-China relations, and what are some of the main challenges standing between both countries,” says Ana Montanez (G’20).
“I definitely do think this has been the most valuable experience I have had as a Georgetown student,” says Sharma. “Not only to learn about approaching other contexts with a different mindset, but also to bring the tangibility and humanity to issues that demand it.”
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Eleven Georgetown graduate students took the unique opportunity this summer to get a glimpse of China’s economic future during a 10-day study tour. The theme of the study tour was China’s 40 years of “Reform and Opening Up”.
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