East Meets West in Macau Study-Abroad Program
Known for its casino industry, the bustling Asian metropolis of Macau is a world apart from the tranquil setting of Susquehanna’s campus. More than 100 high-speed vessels—jetfoils, turbo-cats, jumbo-cats and hover ferries connect the people of this Chinese peninsula with Hong Kong and mainland China. Brief and inexpensive flights take people to other Asian destinations, including Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. But Associate Professor of Anthropology Shari Jacobson and her four student traveling companions discovered that Macau is “in its own right, a very compelling place to live.”
During the spring semester, Jacobson served as director of an exchange program known as SU in China: Macau. The Susquehanna students she chaperoned took classes at the University of Macau, an expanding institution with more than 6,900 students—and plans to build a second campus—situated among the towering casinos and hotels of today’s cosmopolitan Macau and the brightly colored architecture of its Portuguese past.
“You have this older kind of Chinese culture,” Jacobson says. “You still have a lot of Portuguese architecture. There are still Portuguese people.” The University of Macau’s emblem features a bridge symbolizing the fusion of eastern and western cultures in this special administrative region of China, once colonized by Portugal.
There is no shortage of nightlife in Macau, but within 15 minutes of leaving the city, Jacobson says, “you’re on a black sand beach or hiking in subtropical forests.” The students who accompanied Jacobson seized every opportunity for cross-cultural growth.
His first time on horseback, Alexander Davis ’11 embarked on a three day trek through mountains and Tibetan villages. Back in Macau, he enjoyed “walking aimlessly around the city” and taking ferry rides to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Kristen Dumbeck ’13 participated in rock climbing, taekwondo and concert band. Both fondly recall socializing in the TV rooms at their dormitories.
“I really appreciated the way each student carved out his or her own experience,” Jacobson says. “It’s not only for one kind of major. It’s not only for people with a narrow set of interests.” Her traveling companions are a case in point. Davis is a psychology major from Rochester, N.Y., while Dumbeck is a business major from Westmoreland City, Pa. The other two students in their group were Aaron Abel ’11 and Amanda Adams ’12, a creative writing major from Malvern, Pa., and international studies – Asian studies major from Meshoppen, Pa., respectively.
Each student found immense value in the Macau experience. Davis was most impressed by the openness of Macau’s people. “Everywhere I went, the environment was super friendly, and it felt like home.” Dumbeck describes her stay in Macau as “dynamic, influential and fulfilling.”
Jacobson takes a broader perspective. “In 10 years, we could have 50 or 60 SU alumni who have visited and spent time with Chinese friends in their homes. To be a liberal arts college in the middle of Pennsylvania and have this robust network of alumni who have experience and connections in China, that seems like a lot of value.”
Contributing writers to the People & Places section are Charlotte Lotz '12 and Megan McDermott '14.