New travel writing course takes 13 students to Asia

By University Communications
August 29, 2017
Students, along with faculty members Jerry Hui, front left, and Gregory Schneider-Bateman, back row fourth from left, visit Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong during the Travel Media Writing course trip to Asia.

Photo: Students, along with faculty members Jerry Hui, front left, and
Gregory Schneider-Bateman, back row fourth from left, visit Kowloon Walled
City Park in Hong Kong during the Travel Media Writing course trip to Asia.


A group of University of Wisconsin-Stout students and professors recently left the country to visit Asia’s heart, Taiwan, and Asia’s World City, Hong Kong, for one month.

Travel Media Writing, new to UW-Stout’s study abroad program offered through the Office of International Education, is a course combination of Digital Sound Studio and Expository Writing. The course outcome, if students engaged in both classes, was to create a group podcast with each episode reflecting individual interests. 

Sounds and experiences of Asia were recorded through the mediums of audio and journaling. Not only could students look back on this material as a reminder of their experiences, but the goal was for outstanding themes and interests to become audible, relived experiences.

Each day provided sightseeing opportunities. The group visited sites in Hong Kong, including Victoria Peak and Tian Tan Buddha, and stopped at other prestigious destinations in Taiwan, such as Taroko National Park, National Palace Museum and Longshan Temple. Students and professors were constantly on the move, staying no longer than a few days in one place. 

Through the professors’ eyes

UW-Stout student Sam Kilgard talks with children at a school in Tainan, Taiwan, during the Travel Media Writing course trip.Assistant Professor Jerry Hui and Associate Professor Greg Schneider-Bateman, both from the College of Arts, Communications, Humanities and Social Sciences, planned the trip while teaching spring semester classes. They managed tickets, housing reservations, coursework, budget and more.

The process was tricky at times. “Most of it really came to the language. And it’s not so much my problem, more so trying to plan some kind of meaningful experience for students,” Hui said.

Students couldn’t speak the languages. However, Hui was born in Hong Kong and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, the two primary languages encountered during the group's travels. His ability to translate created a fluid learning experience. For example, Hui would translate for tour guides, vendors, waiters and more.

The backbone of the coursework was introduced to students weeks before taking flight. The assignments required students to bring audio recording equipment, laptops and a journal.

“Partnering with Greg and making the course the way it is, sort of centering on turning your travel experience into something more career-focused, that helped a lot,” Hui said. 

The goal was to integrate the work with travel. Hui and Schneider-Bateman were then able to shape coursework around the Asian culture, encouraging students to record daily sounds, interview locals and journal about thoughts, experiences, ideas and moments. 

UW-Stout associate professors Gregory Schneider-Bateman, left, and Jerry Hui have fun on a beach in Kenting, Taiwan, during their monthlong Travel Media Writing course trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Through the students’ eyes

Sam Kilgard, of St. Paul, a senior studying professional communications and emerging media with a concentration in applied journalism, left for Asia with a goal: “I wanted to connect on a personal level with the people that lived there.”

Saki, from Taipei, Taiwan, was the answer. Kilgard had focused his podcast theme on Asian nightlife, and to gather audio he and another student dressed up for a night at a nearby club. The line to enter the club wrapped around the building twice. They noticed a girl standing alone behind them and took initiative to begin a conversation. The trio talked the night away, teaching one another about their cultures and sharing personal stories and experiences. 

Perspectives of the trip were different among all 13 students. 

Associate Professor Jerry Hui, right, and student Yer Vang try an Asian soup they made during their study abroad course visit to Asia.“I grew up in a Hmong community and an Asian community, so it wasn’t that different,” said Yer Vang, of Mosinee, another PCEM student. 
Vang left the minority in the U.S. and entered the majority in Asia. Most of her classmates would experience a clear opposition, at points uncomfortable, unfamiliar and unaccepted. Vang was welcomed as one of the culture's own.

She was even mistaken several times as a local. One day in Hong Kong, Vang found herself at a spa. Right away, the women, of no surprise to Vang, began speaking to her in Cantonese. Vang quickly established her English.

“They kind of freaked out like ‘Oh, she doesn’t speak our language, but she looks like us,’” Vang added. 

These moments struck inspiration in Vang’s podcast. 

Trip of a lifetime’

Journaling, recording and creating an Asian podcast was not just a college project. Each student can archive these projects as tangible memories. All of the writing and recording was meant for reflection. 
Hui and Schneider-Bateman encouraged students to collect as much information and record as many moments as possible. Days would begin to blur together, making it difficult to remember and organize information, students said.

Nevertheless, a month abroad in Hong Kong and Taiwan left an overflow of memories. Some will go unheard by everyone but the group. Some will reach and inspire students to take this course in the years to come, because it really was, according to Schneider-Bateman, “the trip of a lifetime.” 

To see reflections, projects and journal entries from Travel Media Writing, visit the course blog.

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Photos

Second Photo: UW-Stout student Sam Kilgard talks with children at a school in Tainan, Taiwan, during the Travel Media Writing course trip.

Third Photo: Faculty members Gregory Schneider-Bateman, left, and Jerry Hui have fun on a beach in Kenting, Taiwan, during their monthlong Travel Media Writing course trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Bottom Photo: Assistant Professor Jerry Hui, right, and student Yer Vang try an Asian soup they made during their study abroad course visit to Asia.