Author Archives: Katie Burke

Hello all,

Two weekends ago some friends and I went to Chengdu for our three-day independent study weekend. Chengdu is a great city. It’s cute and clean and warm with a lot of cute coffee shops and shopping streets. We all instantly loved the city, even our friend that kind of hates China, loved Chengdu. She also thought she hated tofu but it turned out there was, in fact, a tofu for her! (I’m a big tofu fan so I counted this as a slightly personal victory.) In Chengdu we went to Le Shan Da Fo (乐山大佛) which is a mountain that has the world’s largest stone Buddha. My friend Alex and I were the only ones who wanted to wait in the really long line to see the Buddha from the base of the cliff and it was really incredible, I love the pictures from that day. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve seen in China!

The second day we hiked Emei Shan (峨嵋山). It was really foggy, so in the way of a view there wasn’t much. However, when we were hiking up to the Golden Summit (and I had done no prior research) but I was thinking you know, “Goldennn Summit” pff yeah right. But then we got to the top where there was a HUGE, GOLDEN, multi-headed, Buddha statue and temple. It was really beautiful and a great surprise.
The third day we saw…PANDAS! They are just as cute as you would imagine. The zoo is huge and looks more like an ecological/botanical park than a zoo. It was also super cheap for a whole day in a beautiful park with pandas: only 58RMB for the student entrance fee which is less than $10. The panda’s enclosures are very open, they have low fences and the pandas have a lot of space to roam or just sit and eat bamboo. There are also peacocks that have free range of the park. One flew from a tree and landed right next to us, we all flipped out.

About our upcoming trip! We just finished one of our four big Chinese tests and tomorrow we are heading on a two-week field research trip along the ancient route of the Silk Road! This is organized by the Alliance study abroad program and the Silk Road is the theme of our study abroad program in Xi’an. I’m really excited about my capstone paper for the Silk Road class. For my capstone I decided to focus on Uyghur music (an ethnic Muslim minority group in China concentrated in the Xinjiang region). I’ve started my research and the literature is so interesting on Uyghur music! Most of the articles have to do with how the PRC appropriates minority music for political purposes through state-sponsored concerts and how this affects the image and identity of many minority groups by exoticizing and even feminizing them. On our trip I hope I will have the opportunity to talk to some locals about Uyghur music and maybe even see some live Uyghur music performances. Foot Hand Fish Panda1 Panda2 Peacock

Our itinerary looks amazing. We will be visiting old oasis towns in both Xinjiang and Gansu province.  A really broad outline:

First stop is to Dunhuang to see the Mogao Grottos and take a sunset ride on camels (ahh! :0)
Then it’s to Urumqi for some hiking, a mummy museum and a cultural exchange with local college students.

Then Kuqa to visit Xinhe, a musical instrument artisanal village. Then we’re going to a desert and a forest (in the same day).

Then to Kuqa’s Grand Mosque and Grand Bazaar and afterwards to Tianshan Shenmi Canyon.

The next day we will go to Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves and the Subashi Ruins (these are desert Ruins of an old Buddhist temple).

We will then make our way to Aksu for a visit to Tianshan Shenmu Park and dinner with a local farmer family. Then back to Urumqi! To see the Xinjiang Grand Bazaar and then back to Xi’an.

I can’t wait! Will post pictures when back in Xi’an!


Week Six of being in China has been pretty eventful! The weather has been getting a lot nicer and into Spring so that makes absolutely everything better. The air quality is better and the flowers are blossoming! I was running today and one petal fell and blew straight into my eye though and it was really uncomfortable for a moment. So hazardous. Also, my classes are getting way more manageable. I think I’m feeling better and better about my Chinese most days. Yee!
Last weekend we went to the LouGuanTai, a Buddhist temple that is a scenic hike up into the mountains outside of Xi’an. It was so nice to get out into nature with some friends and see some green. The temple was really expensive to get into but we were able to take pictures in the doorway, so that’s pretty much the same :)) Walking around the trails of bamboo forests with little wooden temples along the way was really worth the trip. We also found a really nice lookout and giant statue of the writer Lao Tze. Oh and we also rode on horses for like 5 minutes! Then they tried to charge us more so we got off but it was really quite thrilling I don’t often ride horses.


I’ve also started volunteering with a kindergarten on campus teaching English! It’s only one class a week but it’s so much fun. It’s also really easy to come up with lesson plans because one of the Chinese teachers set me up with a tutoring gig with his friend’s daughter who is also five. It turns out I can reuse the lessons and materials I make for tutoring with teaching at the kindergarten and vice versa. The little girl that I tutor, Chen Chen, is so cute and creative and clever, it’s so much fun to be paid to play games with her once a week. The first week I completely underestimated her level, she’s only five but I had planned to teach her the seasons, when we got to Spring I asked her if she knew what the picture was and she said, “Springtime, flowers are in blossom” and I was like, Oh WOW we need to do something else. On Wednesday her Mother texted me and just wrote, “I will pick you up at 5:30 and we will go back to our house for the tutoring session tonight”. I said that was fine but when we arrived at her house it actually turned out to be a birthday party for Chen Chen! They invited me to eat dinner with them and then one of Chen Chen’s friends came over and we had a birthday cake and everyone sang happy birthday in English! Even the grandparents! I was so touched that they invited me to the birthday party. It was really nice to be at home with a family, I was so happy.

I’ve also started volunteering with the OCAT Xi’an Contemporary Art Museum! I’m super excited about this, I was given a tour by the founder of the Museum for their new Oil Painting exhibit which opened this past weekend. I later found out that this was my training as an English tour guide for the exhibit (posh voice). I went to the opening but nobody needed an English tour merp. But I did give my friend Lauren a tour. She is going to be volunteering at the Museum with me. On Wednesday we had a meeting scheduled with another volunteer who was running really late so we did the tour and we analyzed the artwork (which she is really good at!) and then we did some yoga in the activities space upstairs – she was trying to show me how to chatarunga – which thankfully no one walked in on. When we actually had the meeting, it was super productive! We seem to have full reign of the room upstairs to hold weekly activities every Wednesday. We came up with a list of programs to run by Ma Ying (the person you run things by) that middle school to University students may be interested in taking part in. Some of the ideas we came up with were; a poetry workshop based on the paintings in the exhibit; a workshop/informational session on Chinese-Muslim calligraphy, a workshop where kids bring in trash and we try to make musical instruments out of them and teach them about protecting the environment; and a poetry reading where kids have to draw a picture to go along with a poem. These were a few of our ideas but they have to be approved my Ma Ying before we can start working on any of them. Still, the meeting felt really productive and got me really excited to start working on any one of these programs.

Anyways, I’ll keep you updated! I’ve included pictures of the hike and the Buddhist temple, volunteering at the kindergarten, and we also went to BingMaYong, the Terracotta Warriors (we went on the same day that Michelle Obama went! But we didn’t see her.) so included a couple pictures of us there as well.  China1 China2 China3 China4 China5 China6 China8


These are pictures from the few days we were in Beijing. As a group we went to the Hou Hai lakes and explored one of the remaining Hutong neighborhoods which surround the lakes. The Hutong’s are neighborhoods of old, one-story, traditional houses and travelling through them gives you a feel for what it would be like to live in ancient, dynastic Beijing! We navigated through the neighborhood’s narrow alleyways in rickshaws and were able to have a homemade meal in one of the Hutong houses. It was delicious! The remaining Hutong neighborhoods are being preserved as most have been destroyed due to new construction projects. They are also big tourist attractions and around the lake are some really fun shopping/eating centers. The lakes are also absolutely gorgeous and it was great just to take in the scenery there :)


Crystal Wegner


New England Returnee Conference- Free Registration for the 1st 10 NU Students!

Are you a study abroad alumni? You should attend the New England Returnee Conference (NERC) on February 22nd! 

We know that you had an amazing experience abroad! Now, make that experience work for you:

The 2014 New England Study Abroad Returnee Conference is dedicated to educating study abroad alumni from around New England on the best ways to utilize the skills and knowledge gained from an international experience. Attending this conference provides a unique opportunity to:

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  • Learn how to market your international experience to potential employers
  • Discover how to study/teach/work abroad again
  • Internationalize your resume and interviewing skills
  • Share stories with others that have similar interests and experiences
  • Enter your photos in a contest for prizes
  • Join keynote speaker, Andy Molinsky: author of Global Dexterity: How to adapt your behavior across cultures without losing yourself in the process. The first 80 students to register will receive a copy of the book! 


Conference Details:

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Babson College, Wellesley, MA

$12 in advance; $15 at the door

*A shuttle will be available from the Green Line Woodland stop to/from Babson

At this year’s conference, we encourage attendees to dress professionally, as to encourage a professional atmosphere. Business casual attire would be appropriate.


To Register:


To make a submission into the Photo Contest:

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Please email with any questions.