Cobleskill students embark on trip to China

Katie Elliott-Engel grew up in a small, rural town in northern New York and always wanted to trav


Katie Elliott-Engel grew up in a small, rural town in northern New York and always wanted to travel. She’ll get her chance now.

The 22-year-old agriculture business major and 15 other SUNY Cobleskill students were scheduled to fly to China on Sunday.

Elliott-Engel will join more than 190 State University of New York students for the two-week trip to include tours and sightseeing, as well as a somber visit to the province devastated by a 2008 earthquake.

SUNY Cobleskill is one of several SUNY colleges that welcomed 150 Chinese students to study in the United States after the earthquake that killed nearly 90,000 people and left 5 million homeless. This trip is seen as an outgrowth of the relationship that formed between the state’s colleges and the Chinese.

Elliott-Engel, a native of Fort Covington, population 1,500, expects to marvel at the sight of a college she’ll visit with roughly 60,000 students.

“I can’t even fathom it. I’m sure it’s its own little metropolis, its own city,” she said.

“We have a lot of people who are not from a metropolitan area who maybe have never traveled out of their states. So it is an incredible opportunity to be able to get out of the country and communicate with other cultures, meet other college students and just be able to have that study-abroad experience,” Elliott-Engel said.

For Cobleskill student Caro-Anne VanZyl, the trip will mark a second major cultural experience — her first was traveling to the United States from her homeland, Namibia.

“Coming from Africa to America, you see so many different things. I think going to China would be completely different, just because they are a completely different place,” she said.

And, VanZyl has noticed that everything is seemingly made in China.

“I’d like to see where everything is made.”

Students taking part in the trip are required to read a book beforehand and keep a journal of their observations and reflections.

From that, they’ll turn in a five-page paper. Upon completion, the course will yield one college credit.

VanZyl said she’s eager to view the massive Great Wall of China. And, as special guests of the Chinese government, she is expecting to see some things many visitors don’t. “They told us during orientation we might be able to see things that tourists might not normally be able to see,” she said.

The group is expected to take a 2.5-hour flight from Albany to Chicago followed by a flight of 13 hours, 42 minutes to China.

VanZyl said she was told to dress warm, but said she believes she’s already prepared: “I don’t think anything can be as cold as New York.”

The group will visit Beijing and Sichuan Province, according to the college. They will participate along with government officials in an opening ceremony in the Great Hall of People, tour the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and participate in a New Year’s Day celebration.

The group is scheduled to return Jan. 10.

Categories: Schenectady County

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