PEACE in China

December 14, 2015

Fox Nanjing Fellows (left to right): Gabe Mickel, Keegan Trainor, Lenny Wainstein, Josh Bramble, Feimei Zeng, Mengya Qiu, Kaitlyn Ugoretz, and Xingchen Liu.

Founded in 2014, the mission of Fox Leadership International (FLI) is to equip and empower Penn students and recent alumni for present and future roles as ethical and effective 21st century global leaders.  One of FLI's primary programs is the China-U.S. Partnerships for Educational Advancement and Cultural Exchange (PEACE).  The PEACE program has several components, including paid internships and fellowships in China for undergraduates and recent alumni, sponsored courses dealing with contemporary governance issues in China and the U.S., and summer programs at Penn for students from Chinese universities.

In summer 2015, FLI partnered with Penn’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations to sponsor eight Penn undergraduate students and recent alumni in a 10-week fellowship program in Nanjing. The program had three interrelated components: work experience, cultural engagement, and intentional community. The fellows worked five days a week, engaged in local and cultural experiences, and participated in activities that built a strong bond and formed a tight-knit community.

Juniors Kaitlyn Ugoretz from Hamilton, N.J. and Feimei Zeng from Allen, Texas, interned at Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation, where they proofread the scripts for the daily program Hello Jiangsu. In addition, they helped develop new shows by brainstorming topics, writing outlines, contacting interviewees, and translating materials. They also created and produced a pilot show.

“It was very exciting when we heard the TV show hosts actually use the lines we drafted,” Ugoretz said. “It gave me a big sense of accomplishment.”

Zeng echoed the sentiment. “I enjoyed the work very much and my supervisor was a really good mentor. It was a very inspiring experience.”

Sophomores Josh Bramble from Washington, D.C., and Keegan Trainor from Philadelphia, Pa., worked at the Jiangsu College for International Education. Bramble translated recruiting materials and helped identify candidates in the Office of Foreign Teacher Recruitment. Trainor worked in the Office of Student Admissions and Affairs, organizing and participating in activities for students who were visiting Nanjing from other regions of China. He also facilitated conversations with Chinese students in English.

Bramble and Trainor both participated in a training program for newly-hired teachers and went on the field trips with students who attended the Discover Jiangsu—Youth Leaders Cultural Immersion Program.

May graduate Lenny Wainstein from Philadelphia and sophomore Gabe Mickel from Tiburon, Calif., interned at the Intelligence Software Engineering Lab at Nanjing University. Their responsibilities included selecting and downloading customer reviews from online business platforms, analyzing the customer reviews, and designing a website.

“This job was a great fit for me,” said Wainstein. “My project was to analyze text review data from Amazon China and it was highly related to statistics and data analysis, which was my major at Penn.”

Fox Nanjing Fellows visiting program leader Mengya Qiu's family on their trip to Wuhan

A recent Graduate School of Education (GSE) alumna, Mengya Qiu from Wuhan, China, and current GSE student Xingchen Liu from Nanjing, China, served as the program leaders. They worked as liaisons between the fellows and their work supervisors and organized the cultural and community engagement activities.

In addition to the intense work schedule, the fellows had many meaningful cultural engagements. These activities were designed to give the fellows a wide range of cross-cultural experiences and immerse them in the local culture. They toured the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Republic of China’s first president; visited the cities of Chuzhou, Wuhan, Suzhou and Shanghai; attended live performances; and visited night markets, among many other activities.

Mickel said these engagements made the fellowship program truly unique. “I really enjoyed so many of the trips and activities, learning about broader and local Chinese culture. The juxtaposition of old historical sites and modern facilities really created a layered view of Chinese culture.”

Zeng added “The cultural engagement was an important component because it distinguished this program from others. All the cultural trips led us to understand why the Nanjing and Jiangsu areas are significant. Because of these trips, we got tastes of different parts of China and came to realize how diverse China could be.”

Two of the most popular cultural activities were the trips to Wuhan and Chuzhou. In Wuhan, the fellows visited Qiu’s family and had a chance to closely observe the neighborhoods and the lifestyles of the residents. In Chuzhou, the fellows got a taste of rural life in China. They spent time with village residents and went peach and flower picking.

“This trip was inspiring and it changed my perspective of rural China,” said Zeng.

Living in an intentional community was the third core component of the program. The fellows lived and enjoyed many activities together including karaoke, bowling, and board games. “We all got along really well and enjoyed hanging out together, said Ugoretz.  “We were all able to support each other at work and at the dorm.”

Karaoke was particularly popular. “We were all relaxed and showed our true selves,” said Wainstein. “It was very interactive and a great opportunity to learn about each other’s personality.”

Bramble summarized the fellows’ experience: “The three components … came together to make a triangle that could not have been completed if one component was taken out. It was why this program was successful and so different from all the other programs that I have attended.”