This past July, I had the opportunity to spend three amazing weeks in China as part of a trip to take part in the 4th year of the University Immersion Program (UIP) at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. I was chosen as the first and only representative from Puerto Rico, the Ana G. Mendez University System, and Universidad del Este to ever participate in this program. I served as a UIP professor to Chinese students, teaching two courses related to the hospitality and events industries. UIP is a highly regarded program where no expense is left uncovered by Sichuan University, and the faculty and students are well taken care of. Sichuan University invested over US$2 million in this summer program, which included visiting professors from North America, Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean.
During my participation in the 2015 UIP, I taught Introduction to the Hospitality Industry and Introduction to the Sports Events Industry for two weeks. I had over 20 Sichuan University students per course who came from different provinces in China. It was very interesting and difficult to communicate; even though the students were required to understand English, they barely spoke it and sometimes did not fully understand it. Additionally, I found that there were certain words that, when translated from Chinese to English, were different than those I was used to. For example, they used the term “toilets” instead of “bathrooms” and “workers” instead of “employees.”
Being able to teach these two courses was a spectacular opportunity that was very rewarding both professionally and personally. Nevertheless, it required a lot of planning and preparation in order to have a successful summer in Chengdu. China is a country with many laws and customs that are very different than those of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. One critical difference was the accessibility of online applications and websites needed to communicate and plan the UIP courses. The most common websites and online applications such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, and Trip Advisor are censored in China. The only way to bypass that censorship was connecting through a VPN, which allows one to access additional material. Through expanded access, I was able to upload photos and videos for my family and friends about the experiences being lived in China as they were happening. Communication in China required a big adjustment in my daily life.
During my time in China, I was able to meet many other professors from countries including India, Denmark, Brazil, Jamaica, Japan, China, England, and many others. I also had the opportunity to visit the world’s largest panda research center and the world’s largest building in square footage, the New World Center. Additionally, right at the end of the trip to China, I flew to Beijing and visited Tiananmen Square, the Olympic Park, and my number one bucket list item, the Great Wall of China. It was an amazing cultural experience.
The opportunity to be part of UIP and visit China is something I would recommend to other professors at SUAGM and UNE. It is a professional and personal opportunity that can change your life and expand your horizons. I am very thankful to everyone at UNE, my school, and my family who helped and supported me in making this opportunity a reality.
The author is currently an Associate Dean and faculty member at the Jose A. (Tony) Santana International School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts at Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He has a Masters degree in Tourism Administration with a focus in Sports Management and Event Management from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. In the past, he was Special Events and Marketing Director with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.