Field experience is at the core of the China Center’s curriculum. While in residence in Hangzhou, students make short day trips to local villages, community organizations, businesses, and heritage sites. Extended field trips to different parts of the country take three up to ten days. Itineraries include seminars with scholars and practitioners; presentations at the offices of international organizations; interface with grassroots organizations and remote rural communities; and visits to museums and cultural events.
In the fall semester, students visit Beijing, China’s capital. Integrated with the Modern Chinese History course, the itinerary includes visits to the city’s iconic monuments: the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the Summer Palace, etc. The core of the itinerary comprises meetings with government and business leaders. Depending on availability, students may discuss flash points in Sino-American relations with the Chinese government's political strategists; bilateral relations and global security with delegates from the U.S. Embassy; international negotiations and agenda setting with representatives from international organizations; and social responsibility with corporate executives. Students also take hikes along wild sections of the Great Wall and taste the famous Beijing Duck.
A signature feature of the China Center is a study trip to Yunnan province as part of the course in Ethnic Minorities Studies. Yunnan is home to representatives of over half of the country’s ethnic minorities, in sharp contrast to the dominant Han culture of coastal China. Students spend almost two weeks traveling from the heights of the Tibetan highlands down to the Thai areas near the border with Myanmar. Students are sometimes placed in homestays among the Naxi people in the beautiful old town of Lijiang or among the Thai people in the southern tropics. Students visit environmental NGOs, gaining insight on the impact of development and tourism on the high lakes and forests in the region. In the provincial capital of Kunming, students experience the impact of tourism on local culture at ethnic theme parks.