KOKOMO, Ind. — In pictures, the Great Wall of China is an impressive sight. 

But to actually stand on its bricks and stones, and watch it weave in what appears to be an unending line from east to west, is awe-inspiring. 

“I think it’s an experience everyone should have,” said Madi Roswog, who hiked the wall as part of an Indiana University Kokomo overseas study class. “It’s so enormous, and they built it by hand on a mountain. It’s a very eye-opening experience. You see it in the movies, but being there in the presence of it, and walking along it, and looking back to see it keep going and going, was just unforgettable.”

Roswog, a senior, was one of six students who spent two weeks in China as part of a Chinese Culture and Communication class taught by Donna McLean, associate professor of communication arts.

“Twenty percent of the world’s people live in China, so it’s a valuable culture to understand and get to know,” said McLean. “China is one of the largest economic markets in the world, and is growing in political significance."

She partnered with Angela Heckman, clinical associate professor of nursing, and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) to add a traditional Chinese medicine component to the class, broadening its appeal to include students interested in nursing and health care. It is the oldest traditional Chinese medicine hospital in the country.

“A lot of the Chinese people’s understanding of health behaviors and medical practices fall in line with so many other cultural practices, it gives our discussion a deeper dimension,” McLean said.

Students studied culture and communication during the spring 2017 semester, before traveling to China. Their itinerary included stops in Beijing, Xi’an, Lijiang, Shaxi, Dali, and Kunming, to learn about the country’s varied ethnic groups.
While in Beijing, the group visited a hospital that practices both Western and Eastern medicine, to see how both are integrated into the health care system.
“It gave us an opportunity to see Eastern medicine in practice, and have a more holistic view of health care, and really thinking about the whole person, and non-traditional ways of treating and preventing illness,” said Heckman.

Megan Deck, a nursing major, found that part of the trip gave her insight into other culture’s medical practices.

“I think it taught me not to jump to conclusions about patients,” she said, noting that the Chinese traditional medicine practice of cupping, for example, leaves marks that someone not culturally aware might believe were caused by physical abuse.

She also found it interesting that the college taught both traditional and Western medical practices.

Although Roswog is a communication arts major, she was fascinated to witness the medical aspect, and to attend the capping ceremony for students graduating from BUCM.

Both students also enjoyed meeting Chinese people, including nursing students and a group of English language learners who welcomed the chance to practice their conversation skills.

“You have this stereotype that they’re all reserved and focused on school, but they weren’t much different from us as college students,” said Deck, from Russiaville.

Roswog encouraged other students to take advantage of travel opportunities offered through IU Kokomo. She’s gone to England, Germany, the Netherland, France, Guatemala, and China as a student, and will be in Italy during the spring semester.

“You can read about all of these places in a book, but to actually be present and experience the culture for yourself, it’s a totally different experience,” the Kokomo resident said. “I took what I saw and learned more to heart, because I saw it and experienced it for myself.”

In addition to Deck and Roswog, student travelers included Jamie Huntsman Coulter, Greentown; Cheryl Ferwerda, Marion; Dylan Orbaugh, Kokomo; and Tyler Wright, Gas City.

Carolyn Townsend, assistant professor of nursing, and Leah Swartzendruber, lecturer in nursing,  also accompanied the group, along with Heckman’s husband, Doug Heckman.

Students received $4,500 in travel scholarships from IU Kokomo, including Seltzer Scholarships and David Starr Jordan Scholarships.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.