University of Delaware
Alumni Relations has announced the seventh annual special trip for alumni, faculty, staff and friends UD to China in June 2013. The deadline is Feb. 1.

Feb. 1 is China trip deadline

Alumni Relations announces seventh annual trip to China for UD alumni, friends


2:39 p.m., Dec. 17, 2012--University of Delaware Alumni Relations has announced the seventh annual special trip for alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University of Delaware to China, the Middle Kingdom, in June 2013.

The journey will be led by volunteer directors 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 deadline for applications is Feb. 1, 2013.

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The trip 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 six 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.

“As an artist from China who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, I consider China and the United States as my mother and father countries,” Gao said. “As a cultural ambassador, I have been passionately promoting cultural exchange and understanding between the people of the two great nations musically. This trip is another way to show my uncompromised commitment in promoting Sino-U.S. relations. 

“Friends of our University who traveled to China with us unanimously agreed that they were able to gain so much more with our special designed itinerary than regular tourists in China, and it was a wonderful way to visit China.” 

The participants were learning about the Chinese people as well as their lives, history, philosophy, religion and society with the two professors. The food in China was another highlight of the trip, as the menu of almost every meal was ordered in advance personally by Gao.

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 six 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 America for the wonderful education it offered to the both of us and to the University of Delaware for the endless support we receive on campus.”

In addition to acting as an unpaid guide this past summer, Gao also met with directors of China’s leading music institutions to establish the Gordon Institute for Music Learning-China, founded by Gao, and Suzanne Burton, UD professor of music education, with the faculty members of the East China Normal University in Shanghai.

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 will travel 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 also benefits from the fund.

The winners of the Delaware National String competition created by Gao and presented by the UD Master Players Concert Series also received cash prizes from the same fund, and used the money to advance their studies in classical music. 


“I would say that having Xiang and Renee share their Chinese insights was a unique experience always to remember,” said Richard Waibel of Newark, Del. “We saw a China of the future, as well as a China of the past. The people were very friendly and went out of their way to get photos with us.”

“Although somewhat overwhelmed with the incredible technological advances of the country, we left with a newfound understanding and appreciation of the Chinese people and their culture,” said John and Therese Snyder, who is a supplemental faculty member in the Department of History. “Xiang and Renee ably provided us an intimate and welcome view of a country that is immense geographically, historically and culturally, certainly a challenge in itself.”

June 2013 trip

Due to the overwhelming success of the past trips, Gao and Dong are planning the next trip for June 2013 at the request of many friends of UD. The 2013 trip brochure, with itinerary and application forms, is posted on the Alumni Relations website. The deadline for application is Feb. 1, 2013.

About Xiang 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, Gao 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.

Article by Jerry Rhodes

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