The 2013 China trip group gathers for a photograph.

China trip

Eighth annual trip to China set for UD alumni, faculty, staff, friends

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8:35 a.m., Aug. 28, 2013--University of Delaware Alumni Relations has announced the eighth annual special trip to China, the Middle Kingdom, in June, 2014, voluntarily planned and led by Xiang Gao, UD Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music, and his wife Renee Dong, instructor of Chinese in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. The trip is open to alumni, faculty, staff and friends of UD.

The deadline for applications is Feb. 1, 2014.

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It will include visits to Beijing, where the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven are located; Xi'An, site of the 2,000-year-old Terracotta Warriors; and Shanghai, the largest port in the world and the “Pearl of the East,” and Suzhou, the city of traditional Chinese gardens and birth place of Chinese silk.

The success of the China trips in the past seven summers was not due to simply the aforementioned world famous sites seen by the group, but also due to the highly educational element and cross-cultural experience provided by the two volunteer directors.

“This is a personalized VIP tour I designed for the alumni, friends and employees at the University of Delaware,” Gao said. “I received the best possible college education in the U.S. for free, and I am provided with an opportunity for a performing and teaching career in the U.S., the country I call my father country. Also, China, my mother country will always remain in a tender spot of my heart, for raising me and providing me with a great foundation to become a performing artist living in the West. I cannot think of a better way to donate my time as a cultural ambassador and volunteer trip director to promote cultural exchange and understanding between the people of the two great nations.”

He added, “Next year marks the 35th anniversary of the normalized Sino-U.S. relations, and Renee and I will try our best to continue to make this trip the most wonderful way to visit China for all people who are connected to our great University.”

The participants will learn about the Chinese people as well as their lives, history, philosophy, religion and society with the two professors. The food in China is another highlight of the trip as the menu of almost every meal will be selected personally by Gao, who refuses to have the participants to have tourist food provided by travel agents.

Special insights

The trips have benefited tremendously in the non-English speaking country from the fact that professors Gao and Dong are natives of China, which allows them to provide special insights to the tour group. “Because we are both bilingual and bicultural we know what is most valuable to the travelers,” Gao said. “Plus we have directed the UD Study Abroad China program seven times and the alumni China trip seven times, so we are able to make the trip a better experience than any travel agent can provide. This is our way to say thank you to the University of Delaware for the endless support we have received on campus and to the very supportive concert audience of the UD Master Players Concert Series I founded back in 2004.”

In addition to acting as an unpaid guide this past summer, Gao also gave a recital in Taipei, Taiwan, and visited Duhuang, China for inspiration for a new composition he is writing. He also finished producing a promotional DVD for his crossover duet 6ixwire Project in China.

Alumni China Trip Awards (Golden Pig Fund)

The trip benefited not just the participants; it also served to raise funds for scholarships and research.

Gao said that after many years of extremely successful and well-received trips, the participants established a scholarship fund for UD students called the Golden Pig Fund -- the first trip took place during the Chinese year of the golden pig -- to honor the trip and the work of the volunteer leaders.

Many UD students have received the Alumni China Trip Awards, scholarships funded by the donation from the Golden Pig Fund. These students traveled to China to study music, language, culture and history. Research on Chinese language/second language education conducted at UD by Dong and her colleagues and mentors are also benefiting from the fund.

This year, the Master Players Concert Series’ Holiday Pops concert will also be made free of charge to anyone 14 or under, a gift from participants who traveled to China with Gao, who is also the producer of this fun family concert event to be held at 3 p.m. on Dec. 7 in Mitchell Hall.

2014 trip being planned

Due to the overwhelming success of the past trips, Gao and Dong are planning another trip for June 2014 at the request of many friends of UD. The 2014 trip brochure, with itinerary and application forms, is posted on the Office of Alumni Relations website. The deadline for application is Feb. 1, 2014.

Professor Gao

Born and raised in Beijing, Gao came to the United States to study at the University of Michigan and after graduation came to teach at the University of Delaware. While teaching in Newark, Gao maintains an international concert career as one of the world's top concert violinists from China. Most recently, he became the first Chinese violinist with an endowed professorship in the U.S. For more information on Gao's music career, see the website.

For information on Gao's upcoming concerts in the area and the Master Players Concert Series (MPCS), of which he is the artistic director, visit the MPCS website or call the general manager Tamara Smith at 302- 831-2850.

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