In 2011, after laying the foundation for two years, Shantou University led 16 students and 4 staff to an Himalayan expedition to Shishapangma, the tallest mountain wholly within the border of China. The training program conducted by some of us at Zen Quest focused on incremental progression: weekly physical training, outdoor survival camps, followed by pre event altitude training in Yunnan – culminating in the final winter skills training conducted at 5,500 meters!
In 2012, STU, with its focus on student empowerment, decided to hold a competition, where two teams of students will be sponsored to conduct an expedition to a location of their choice. Our staff at Zen Quest helped to organize the entire selection, training and implementation process. In the end the expeditions led the teams to Kekexili (part of the Lang Tang Plateau) and Yarlung Canyons (One of the world's largest canyons which is located in Eastern Tibet). Our staff at Zen Quest helped to train these teams in their outdoor abilities, sensibilities and physical capabilities. Through a 3 month program, these outdoor novices planned and executed a 14 day expedition in the remote edges of Tibet and Qinghai. Although our staff acted as safety officers during their expedition, the teams were given ultimate authority to implement their plans. Our instructor merely guided the process of discussion and made the final call on safety issues.
This represents a major departure from traditional Chinese education. There is a certain infallibility associated with authority figures in China. Most education is conducted in the traditional method of rote learning. Applying experiential learning in China requires delicate finesse – empowerment being an achievement that comes from the cultivation of critical thinking, overcoming challenges and making decisions for oneself. Shantou University continues to lead the way in this avant-garde movement.
The results of such a program were impressive. A shining example, after the program, a student named Xu, once a soft spoken and shy young man, took the lead in conducting various programs for other students in the university. Now his program delivery is full of conviction and confidence.
"The expedition process gave me the confidence to be who I am." Nuff said.
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