Politics & Prose Travel Series

ATA/Politics & Prose Presents:

Jaipur Literary Festival
The Greatest Literary Festival on Earth
January 21-31, 2013

Set on the grounds of the Hotel Diggi Palace, the festival is spectacular in its splendor, hospitality and intellectual stimulation. Now in its eighth year, it has grown from its humble inception with 15 authors into an international media event that this year drew 260 speakers and a crowd of over 120,000.

Join journalist and screenwriter Alexandra Viets on this unique journey to India that will include stops at a number of major tourist sites while also serving as a roving literary seminar. Along the way the P&P group will immerse itself in the riches of South Asian literature with informal conversations about art, film, and contemporary books, including Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning novel of modern New Delhi, The White Tiger, Rohinton Mistry’s classic epic, A Fine Balance, and other fiction and non-fiction selections. The trip will offer rare access to local journalists and writers and will include a private meeting with festival organizer and prize-winning author William Dalrymple.

The ten-day journey will begin January 21 flying to New Delhi, a vibrant, chaotic, glorious city that fuses the ancient and modern worlds. Here participants will explore the labyrinthine streets of both Old and New Delhi, visit mosques, monuments and forts, and shop at the lively and colorful bazaars. The visit will be enhanced by a guided walking tour with author, broadcaster, and longtime Indiophile Sam Miller, and will also include a picnic in Lodhi Gardens with Rama Lakshmi who has worked as the Washington Post correspondent in New Delhi for more than 20 years.

In Jaipur, there’ll be meetings with featured authors and ample opportunity to explore the stunning landscape of Jaipur itself, including the Amber Fort, City Palace, and small independent bookshops. Politics & Prose will be working with partners in Jaipur to help secure good seating at events and readings once the 2013 schedule is finalized. Past authors have included Vikram Seth, Tom Stoppard, Michael  Ondaatje, JM Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Ian McEwan, and Roddy Doyle. Find out more…

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An Eye for China

I’ve been traveling to China for, I’m shocked to admit, nearly 20 years. One of the first pictures I have of me in China was taken from the Bund in Shanghai, with my back to the Huangpu and, across the river, an expanse of rice paddies and run-down one-story buildings. I vaguely remember my friend telling me that the Shanghai government had just announced plans to develop a new economic zone in the area called Pudong. I was barely listening. In the aftermath of Tiananmen, a year and a half earlier, I more interested in politics than economics, and at any rate, on that dreary grey day, in that run-down city, I lacked the imagination to see what Shanghai would become.

I am further shocked to admit that I have been planning tours to China for nearly 16 years. This has enabled me to visit far-flung corners of the country, from Harbin in the far north to the border with Vietnam; from Qingdao on the Yellow Sea to Kashgar and the border with the Kyrgyz Republic. And yet, when people ask me where they should go when they visit China for the first (and quite possibly only) time, I always recommend Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and, if time and money permit, one other place. That’s perhaps a little out of character, because I love to travel off the beaten path myself. However, some of my own most indelible impressions of China come from some of the “must-sees,” but doing them a little differently from most.

I never tire of going to the Great Wall. Even though I’ve seen it probably a dozen times, I still am blown away every time I trace its twisting path over and between the mountains north of Beijing. I of course avoid the Badaling section, preferring Mutianyu or, better yet, Jinshanling or Simatai, and I leave very early in the morning so I have the place mostly to myself.

These days it’s almost impossible to visit the Forbidden City and not share it with thousands of others, many of whom are wearing identical hats and are following a bullhorn. Fortunately, most of those thousands are only interested in the admittedly extremely impressive halls in the center of the City. I love to wander through the sections off to the sides, exploring the smaller rooms and hidden alleys. I’ve even been fortunate enough, through the amazing connections of my friends and partners at Hubei Overseas Travel Corporation, to visit, on occasion, sections not open to the public, where some of the most exquisite gems are hidden.

In Xi’an, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the scale of the terra cotta army of the emperor Qin Shi Huang. These days, anyone can take pictures of the soldiers and horses, and for a fee, anyone can go down to the VIP level for a slightly closer look and slightly better angle. What trumps both, though, is actually getting down into the pits and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a 2200-year-old clay warrior. Again through the my friends at HOTC, I’ve had the opportunity to do that twice, and it remains one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in China.

In Shanghai, I love to visit the Shanghai Museum. In a city that is all about the future, the museum is a beautiful reminder of the thousands of years of exquisite artisanship that are otherwise obscured by the glass and steel and traffic and Maglev. And in the basement, closed off to the public, is a beautiful replica of a tea garden, with mood lighting that can be adjusted to simulate different times of day. It’s a peaceful place, in stark contrast to the hubbub above ground.

What I REALLY like about Shanghai, though, is the change. Shanghai is about growth, the future, transformation, possibility. Whenever I can, I go to the Bund and stand where I stood nearly 20 years ago and gaze over at the unimagined reality of what China has become.

Chris Roper
Program Manager

Academic Travel Abroad

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CET Director Mark Lenhart’s Interview with the Global Times

logo cet_logo_white


Education abroad lets you see home in new light

• Source: Global Times

• [22:26 August 25 2009]

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Link to article online at:

http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/commentary/2009-08/461114_2.html

• Comments

Editor’s Note:

Along with the emerging economy of China, Chinese language and culture are becoming more popular subjects of study in the US, and more students are coming to China to study. The following is an interview by the Global Times (GT) reporter Chen Chenchen with Mark Lenhart (Lenhart), director of CET Academic Programs, a Washington-based study abroad organization founded in 1982.

GT: How did CET start its business in China? Why do you bring students to China, rather than simply teaching them Chinese in the US?

Lenhart: The roots of CET are really in China. Our first Chinese language program was in Beijing in the summer of 1982. We expanded in China in the 1980s and 1990s, but CET did not begin to operate programs outside of China until 1997.

We now operate in Vietnam, Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, and we’re developing new programs in Japan and the Middle East. But more than 50 percent of CET’s students choose to study in China.

We currently send around 600 students to China, and the majority of them are American. This number is still growing.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of our students stay in China after they graduate. It is wonderful to see them build lives in China, find professional success, and contribute to China’s development.

Many students arrive in our programs with simplistic ideas about what China is like, and as time goes on and as they learn both inside and outside the classroom, their old views are challenged.

Some are critical of what they see, but by the end of their semester or academic year in China, they develop a more nuanced view. They come to understand how complicated China is and how much China has achieved in the last 30 years.

Quite often, they also develop a clearer picture of the US, and they arrive home more critical of American media, our foreign policy, and our economic system.

This is the true benefit of education abroad. Because students experience firsthand life in a very different country, they begin to think critically about the US and its role in the world. They are then in a much better position to solve problems and to create positive change.

GT: How does CET promote China overseas?

Lenhart: While CET makes an effort to distinguish its China programs from the competitors’ programs, we really don’t have to do much to promote China as a destination. Students know from the news, classes and friends that China is a fascinating place of contradictions and change. This is very exciting for me.

When I was a student in the mid- 1980s, it was difficult to find China in the US media or even as a subject in my college classes. Now there is something about China on the front page of the Wall Street Journal every day.

It is not CET’s job to represent China as traditional or modern. Instead, we try to expose students to as much as we can about China, and we try to give them the tools they need to make their own connections and to learn from their Chinese teachers and peers.

We have programs that offer students courses taught in English about China. These courses focus on a variety of topics, including Chinese history, China’s economy, and Chinese society.

Some of our faculty members are Chinese, and some are from other parts of the world, so they offer a variety of perspectives. No matter what their own views are, they try to present information about China objectively so that students can draw their own conclusions.

I personally find it fascinating to see how “traditional China” is presented to foreigners, just as I’m interested in how Americans represent the US to outsiders.

I’ve watched Peking Opera performances dozens of times, but the audience for these performances is nearly entirely foreign.

If foreigners did not visit China, would Peking Opera become a thing of the past?

Similarly, ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province have made a concerted effort to preserve and present their traditional culture to tourists from both abroad and China’s urban areas. If tourism did not exist, would these traditions survive?

I think it’s interesting to consider how everyday people represent their own culture. I hope our students think critically about these questions, and that they discuss them with their Chinese friends.

GT: According to the students’ feedback, have their China experiences changed their original perspectives and how?

Lenhart: Students often write to me that China “changed their lives.” They don’t always elaborate, but I think the changes I’ve described above are at the heart of what changes. They come home with a deeper understanding of China and the US.

In addition, many experience tremendous personal growth – they develop new levels of independence and confidence, and they start to think more broadly about “how to learn.”

Happily, most of our students also return home with lasting friendships with Chinese students. They all make an effort to maintain and renew these friendships when they stay in China after they graduate.

China also changed my life. Of course it was a completely different place when I first studied here in 1987. But my experience was not unlike what our students experience today. I made incredible friendships with Chinese students, I traveled more in China than I had ever in the US, and I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Chinese people from all walks of life.

I knew when I finally left China in 1992 that I would commit myself to promoting US-China educational exchange, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make a career out of this commitment.

GT: What suggestions do you have for those who deeply want to know about China, but don’t have a way to get here?

Lenhart: I think that most Americans can find ways to get to China, even if they face difficult economic constraints. There are more and more scholarships and loans available to students who wish to study overseas.

Since I believe that there really is nothing quite like studying in China, even for a very short time, my advice to those who face these barriers is to find ways around them.”

Link to article online at:

http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/commentary/2009-08/461114_2.html

India: Discovering The Living Arts

A visit to the studio of R.B. Bhaskeran for talks on Modern Art Movements in India

A visit to the studio of R.B. Bhaskeran for talks on Modern Art Movements in India

India ranks very high on the “life lists” of many travelers, including the group of museum professionals and ATA staff who set out in early June to learn about India’s booming contemporary art scene, which has its roots in a 5,000 year artistic tradition.

India is “exotic” in a way quite unlike any other place on earth. It was a sensory overload, a spiritual experience, and a mystical, bedazzling riot of colors and activity—all at the same time. Braving India’s summer heat, we were rewarded with virtually tourist-free sights and monuments.

Our exhilarating journey to Chennai, Agra and Delhi provided us with an exciting curriculum in the living arts, as well as an introduction to the India’s most important art movements, archeological treasures, and architectural monuments. For eight days, we had the distinct pleasure of discussing art and culture with painters, dancers, musicians and an extraordinary archeologist. We left India hungry for more, knowing we had just scratched the surface of a rich, multi-layered artistic tradition.

There were so many highlights to cherish on this trip!

First, the artists. Kuntal Desai and R B Bhaskeran in Chennai generously opened their homes to us, giving us a very personal look at their work and inspiration. We also visited several artists’ villages, and a state-sponsored artist studio in Delhi.

Then there were the musicians and dancers, who demonstrated the power of oral tradition in India culture, and sang and played beautiful music on traditional instruments.

And of course, we were awe-struck at the Taj Mahal, where we spent two hours examining this most famous example of Mughal architecture. We also spent time at the temples of Mahabalipuram, built between the 7th and 9th century.

To see a slideshow of our tour, click here

To see a few of our trip videos, click here

Academic Travel Abroad’s website

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CET Teams Up with Smithsonian Journeys

Student group in Beijing

Student group in Beijing

CET is excited to announce a new avenue for high school students looking for unique study abroad opportunities for 2010. CET has now teamed up with Smithsonian Journeys and will offer study programs in Spain, Italy, and China for 2010.

CET Academic Programs is a private study abroad organization based in Washington, DC that has been designing and administering innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. CET is known for their high academic standards, innovative approaches to teaching and careful student management. Their programs integrate students into their overseas communities and lead them to create lasting relationships with their local hosts. Staffed by over 40 full-time employees in the US and abroad, CET currently sends around 1000 US students abroad annually.

Smithsonian Journeys will be offering Smithsonian Studies Abroad programs in Italy, Spain, and China summer programs geared specifically to high school students looking to take advantage of the benefits of studying abroad programs.

Students in Avila, Spain

Students in Avila, Spain

These programs will include;

Rigorous courses of study led by highly qualified teaching staff.

All programs feature a language component, cultural explorations, sightseeing, and weekend excursions.

Student accommodations feature modern facilities, internet service, most meals, and a dedicated full-time residential staff.

More about the programs;

• Florence, Italy –Renaissance Treasures

Florence offers an ideal location for students to study Italy’s rich artistic and cultural legacy. Surrounded by brilliant art and architecture, students will be uniquely immersed in contemporary Tuscan life with many opportunities to practice their language skills.

• Avila, Spain – Life in a Medievil Walled City

Located halfway between Madrid and Salamanca, medieval Avila is recognized as one of Spain’s most distinguished centers of learning. Students will strengthen existing Spanish skills during a comprehensive cultural course at the University of Salamanca.

• Beijing, China – The Heart of Imperial and Modern China

The Beijing program focuses on China’s extraordinary past and present. Students will reside at China’s top-rated Capital Normal University, located just outside of Beijing. Students will study Chinese politics, economics, history, and environmental policies, and gain a foundation in Chinese language.

To learn more, visit www.smithsonianjourneys.org

Also visit CET’s website to learn more here: www.cetacademicprograms.com

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Academic Travel Abroad Travel Tip: Consider Stopovers to Consolidate Costs and Travel Time

Mongolian Landscape

Mongolian Landscape

As we all continue to tighten our belts when it comes to spending on things we once considered necessary, travel is one of the line-items that can fall into a gray area of our budgets.  A little tweaking of the way we look at booking travel can help us justify what is feasible, and how we can make our vacations all the more memorable.

“Location, location, location!” isn’t just for real estate these days.  If you’re already halfway around the world, make it count!   Once you’ve already booked a trip to Mongolia, consider extending your vacation by stopping in Beijing or Seoul for a few days to a week before making your way back home.  Airlines often offer special rates for extended layovers, and hotel internet specials are becoming better and better, especially when you book 2 or more nights.  Try this strategy with a Paris vacation before your arrival in Morocco; a stopover in Munich or Frankfurt on your way to or from Italy; or spend a few days in Lisbon after you disembark your Mediterranean cruise.  It’s all the satisfaction of 2 vacations for a margin of the cost of doing them separately – plus you’ll be better adjusted to the time difference and won’t spend nearly as many hours in-flight.  So keep checking off those places on your bucket lists, or simply re-visit that city you’ve been dying to get back to for years.  Whatever your reasoning or motivation, now is the time to make your trips go further.

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Across Russia by Train

tsx-lisa-tilley-213 The Trans-Siberian Express

Completed at the end of the 19th century, the Trans-Siberian Railway allows adventurous travelers to journey 6,000 miles across Russia’s great expanse. Smithsonian Journeys and Academic Travel Abroad offer a unique travel experience in 2009 aboard the newly-renovated, luxury Golden Eagle Express, traveling from the enigmatic Russian Far East and its legendary outposts to Moscow’s Red Square, crossing eight time zones and two continents.  Along the way stopping in remote outposts to learn about the fascinating peoples and cultures of Siberia and Mongolia, visit museums, and enjoy a traditional meal in a private ger (tented home). Exclusive lectures by historian George Munro highlight Russian history from before the Romanovs to the present. Even the most experienced travelers will be spellbound by this special journey. Click here to read more…

The Trans-Siberian Expert:

George Munro

George Munro

George Munro is Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University. He received his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the recipient of several Fulbright grants, fellowships, and distinguished service awards. George has lived and studied in the former Soviet Union and served as Study Leader for many Smithsonian Journeys.

In a recent interview, Dr. Munro reflected on train travel in Russia:

“For a century and a half trains have been one of the important means of transportation in Russia. Railroads figure largely in Russian literature-see Anna Karenina! Railroad workers and factories producing equipment for the railroads played a critical role in Russia’s revolutions in the early 20th century. From train windows one glimpses some of the most beautiful Russian scenes as well as the disadvantaged areas that no country deliberately shows its visitors. The view from the train combines a little bit of everything in Russia. To actually live on a train while seeing Russia is a real treat.”

Learn more about this unique adventure here

slideshow-graphic1

presented by Smithsonian Journeys
and Academic Travel Abroad