Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2018.
Global Seminars offer an immersive, group-based experience taught by UBC faculty that also doesn’t interrupt your academic year. For Ashley, a 5th year Arts student, that took her to Kaiping, China.
Read on to hear about her experience.
Can you remind me what Global Seminar you entered and where you went?
Sure, it was ACAM 390, so we went to Kaiping which is in China, but we also went to Hong Kong too. The plan was that we would be focusing on immigration impact and immigration stories and focusing on food.
Cool! Can you expand on the food part?
One of the topics was “duck, duck, goose” which was looking at how barbecued duck kind of evolved—initially they actually ate barbecued goose. They don’t actually eat barbecued duck which is interesting because everyone is sort of used to the barbecued duck as Hong Kong food, right? The reason they switched is because duck is more accessible here, so that was really cool to learn about.
Can you talk about some of the work you produced in this class?
We were doing a VR video—it was a really broad topic talking about immigration stories and networks between Vancouver and Kaiping. A lot of the students had ancestral connections to the land so they actually got to meet family they’ve never met before and reconnect with their roots and figure out their heritage. That was really, really awesome to see and some people documented that.
The video evolved to turn more towards immigration stories and chasing your roots, and figuring out what happens when people leave a space and how you can reconcile with that sort of geographical distance, but also cultural distance oftentimes.
Can you elaborate a little bit more on what your final project ended up being and how that collaboration process was coming together afterward and, I guess, being here [back at UBC]?
My group met up almost every single day, two to three days after I got back—we just worked every day for five to six hours. Primarily we were focusing on an oral soundscape built into VR. One of our team members actually had ancestral roots there, too, but he also can’t speak that dialect. He was talking about how it was an unfamiliar, yet familiar experience in the sense that he doesn’t know what they were saying but it was familiar because he had heard that dialect when he was younger.
So he picked up on it and kind of felt nostalgic, but he doesn’t necessarily have that same connection to it. That sort of relationship was our focus. Are you actually connecting with it? Is it more of a performance? What kind of responsibility do you have or feel that you have towards learning about your heritage? That’s sort of a distant conversation and we called it “Distant Wor(l)ds.”
So you can’t translate things and convey exactly what’s being said. We also didn’t want to lose that dialect. We wanted to remove that sort of voyeuristic vibe. The language is there to remind you that this is their culture and you can’t just access it that easily.
Do you have any advice for anyone that would be entering this seminar next summer?
Make sure you are invested in the topics because that is what you’re working on the whole time—even when you’re back, you’re going to be working on it for another two to three weeks. I think it’s also important to make sure that you check in with your team and that you’re feeling emotionally okay because you have to process a lot of things. I think what I was touched by is that everyone was just so warm and so compassionate, even the people that we were visiting—they treated you like family.
Are there any takeaways that you’ve learned about yourself through this experience? Has this changed the way you think about yourself and your whole university experience?
I think my takeaway would be: ask your parents where they are from too! Sometimes the lack of communication is because people don’t think that their stories are important and they don’t think that their kids want to hear them, but it’s really cool to learn about it and there’s limited time to really be able to go back. Sometimes the village is just gone, sometimes you can’t go back; like, some people couldn’t find their relatives, or they couldn’t find the village because it had been developed.
It’s important to learn where you’re from. Personally for me after this trip, I know how important the language is because, without it, so much access is lost. You can’t talk to them, you can’t do anything. I now feel more of a responsibility to practice my Mandarin and talk to my parents more in it. Growing up here, it’s harder to maintain the language because we’re surrounded by English speakers. It’s nice to respect the fact that they traveled across the ocean for us, for a better opportunity. It’s important to at least talk to them in the language that they feel comfortable in.
For more info, visit the international experience page to search for study abroad opportunities.