Students Share Summer Research in China

Jacob DeCarli ’22, Staff Writer

ix students who were selected to receive funding to participate in a program to work abroad in China presented their experiences and concluded that the hard-working and community-building attitudes of one rural village keep it vibrant, contradicting regional trends.

Meghan McBride ’19, one of the student researchers, said the people of Fengyu, where the students’ research was focused, were “incredibly welcoming, kind and generous.” 

The research was sponsored through the Intercultural Research and Exchange program. The program, funded by the Freeman Grant, allows selected students to study abroad or complete research in an East Asian country. According to the Institute of International Education, the purpose of the grant includes, “…strengthening the bonds of friendship between the United States and countries of East Asia.” In January of this year, 20 Dickinson students applied for the grant.

The village of Fengyu is known as a “stay behind” area because the working-age population migrated out of the rural village to industrial cities for better employment opportunities, but elderly women and young children remained, explained the student researchers. Typically, these villages become desolate over time, however, the students’ research found that community programs and resident attitudes are preventing it from submitting to that trend. 

 “Locals welcomed us into their homes with food and shared interesting stories,” McBride said of her favorite part of the experience. “Even though there was a language barrier, everyone was kind.” 

While abroad, the students focused their research regarding the village on gender, religion, cultural sustainability, food systems and connections between people who stayed in the village and those who left. 

“I do not know the Chinese language, so working with interpreters was often challenging but interesting,” McBride added of the overall experience. 

Rose is the faculty advisor and program coordinator of the project. She said the research proposal “took a good year to plan. Professor [of Anthropology] Ann Hill and I both talked and did work in migration. We were both interested in sustainability and gender. We knew about the Freeman Grant, so we had students help us cowrite the program proposal as part of the application process. In February, we received the grant and then advised more meetings about research methods for the selected students.” According to Rose, this was the first year for the program, however she said, “We’ve had other grants with Asian networks, but this is the first for students.” 

McBride said a discussion with Professor of Sociology Susan Rose, one of the professors who supplied the grant, motivated McBride to apply. “For my sociology major, I took a qualitative research methods course and loved the close observation research and analyzation. So, Professor Rose suggested that I apply for the grant because of my interests.” McBride said her research abroad “didn’t sway me to pursue something specific, however, it made me think of the rewards and challenges of doing this type of research.” 

For more information on study or research abroad, visit the Center of Global Study and Engagement.