Friday, June 15, 2007

Back to class

I’ve spent the day in Shanghai with students from the University of Miami’s Shanghai Journalism Project, a summer study program run by Prof. Bruce Garrison.

This year, the program drew five students: Ryan Watzel, 20, of Coral Springs; Karina Smuclovisky, 21, of Fort Lauderdale, Greg Linch, 19, of Weston (in-coming editor of the Hurricane), Taylor Murphy, 20 (as of yesterday!) of Orlando, and Karyn Meshbane, 21, of Boca Raton. (You can see their work at //

The five-week progam is designed to help students polish their feature writing skills. But more important, perhaps, is the exposure to contemporary Chinese culture.

Garrison, who lived here for a year as a Fullbright Scholar, arranges meetings with local students and journalists, as well as foreign journalists based in China. This year the group has visited Beijing, Chengdu (to see the pandas) and Hong Kong; tomorrow they go to Xian to see the terracotta warriors. They return to South Florida on June 22.

But in Shanghai, they’re often on their own. “I try to get them oriented, introduce them to the right people, and get them to understand and respect the local culture. Then I set them loose,'' says Garrison.

The lessons, say the students, are many: the differences in the way journalism is practiced in China and the U.S.; the generosity of local people; the culture shock of being stared at in the subway. “We take so much for granted, so may things like toilets and toilet paper and soap and clean water and clean air,’’ says Karina.

Says Ryan, “When you’re in America, you think we’re the only people in the world. Here you see that there are a lot of people in the world besides us.’’

After the first two weeks of eating only Chinese food, the students searched out other cuisines. Today we had lunch in a Greek restaurant and ice cream at a Haagen-Dazs with sit-down service; tonight we’re going Italian.

“But we haven’t gone to McDonald’s or KFC or Burger King,’’ says Greg. Not even Starbucks.


From left: Karyn Meshbane, Taylor Murphy, Karina Smuclovisky, Ryan Watzel, Greg Linch

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