Hi Comm Majors! Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting about the Penn Media Scholars in China: Annenberg’s new summer institute. The competitive program involves a 3+ week trip, which immerses undergraduate students in the media environment in China, and includes site visits to media institutions and internet firms in Beijing and Hangzhou, as well as opportunities to meet with Chinese university students and global media industry professionals.
This year’s student group, led by Professor of Communication and Sociology Guobin Yang, embarked on June 5, 2017. To find out more about their experience, the participants have graciously provided responses to an email interview for DotComm.
Consider applying for next year’s trip (more info on that here). Applications are due in January for the summer 2018 trip. In the meantime, enjoy what your fellow comm majors are experiencing by reading below!
Why did you decide to apply and go on the Penn Media Scholars Trip to China?
The main reason for me was the ability to travel abroad. As an RA, I am unable to do a semester abroad, which is something that I wanted to do. So when I saw this program, it looked like the perfect opportunity for getting my “study abroad” experience! Additionally, I took Prof. Yang’s class this past spring and really enjoyed it, which was another reason why I decided to apply for the program!
Had you ever been to China before? What were your expectations going into the trip?
I’ve never been to China, so this was an exciting opportunity! I expected the culture to be very different than American culture – it is! My experience has shown me how different China is from the US, even when it comes to things like city planning! It was such a great opportunity to experience these differences.
What have you been surprised by during your time in China?
I was surprised at how prominent Alipay and WeChat Pay were – before coming, I had heard that China was largely a cash-based economy. However, there were quite a few places that only accepted these tech ways of payment.
Can you give a typical daily schedule of a program day? What have you explored in your free time?
On weekdays, we wake up between 8 and 9 am and head to either a media company or a lecture at a college. At the media companies, we would generally go on a tour, sit in on a presentation, and then have a Q&A with some of the company employees. Then, we would get lunch as a group at a nice restaurant. Then, we would have free time. Most weekends were also free. In our free time, we explored many things including the Forbidden City, the West Lake, and various streets in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Suzhou!
As a communications student, what have you learned about the media environment in China? (News, social media, technology usage, etc.)
I’ve learned a lot about how independent companies and the Chinese government are connected – it is a complicated relationship and one that changes depending on the media (news, tech, entertainment, etc.). I’ve also learned a lot about the nature of the “Great Firewall” and how people navigate it through VPN usage (I myself did this!).
Final thoughts: what is your favorite place/experience you’ve been to or had on your trip?
My favorite experience on the trip with meeting our peers at Renmin University! On the trip, we were paired with a group of Journalism Graduate students in Beijing who were the nicest people! We attended lectures with them, went to the Great Wall with them, and even went to Karaoke with them!! I’m friends with them on WeChat and Facebook (some of them are on Facebook through a VPN) and I hope to remain in contact with them!