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In 2007 Virginia Kuo, Youth Educator Peoria County and Judy Schmidt, Youth Educator, East Peoria Center, submitted a proposal for this trip to the Professional Development Opportunity (PDO) committee. After the proposal had been accepted, an advisory group was formed.
Members of the advisory group were:
The advisory group developed a list of criteria for the selection of team members to go to China and a questionnaire which applicants had to complete. The goal was to create a group of people that would represent University of Illinois Extension well to our Chinese partners, who had the capacity of utilizing this experience in their daily work, who would spread the gained knowledge within the Extension system and beyond and last but not least would greatly profit in their personal development from the China experience.
A total of 43 applications were received. The advisory group selected nine staff members from different regional and professional backgrounds. In addition, five members of administration were chosen to participate. Virginia Kuo was the main organizer, in charge of arranging the out-of-country part of the trip.
I loved watching families with their children. It is quite obvious that children are loved and valued. It’s also obvious the elderly are revered and valued. I remember when we were at Zhu-jia-jiao, there was a man about my age who was helping his elderly father navigate the crowd. It was very touching to watch the interaction between father and son. I also found it interesting to watch people’s reaction to us! In Shanghai, I think many people are starting to get used to foreigners.
-- Phyllis Herring
The final group consisted of:
After the selection was done, preparation started - travel agendas, accommodation, and transportation were worked out with our Chinese counterparts, flight tickets, visa and health insurance were purchased.
To prepare the group for the trip, a two day preparation workshop was organized on January 23 and 24, 2008 in Chicago. The agenda of the meeting included an introduction into Chinese culture and history by Z.J. Tong of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, an introduction to Chinese language, and travel tips.
We were scheduled to fly directly from Chicago O’Hare to Pudong Airport in Shanghai at 10:00 am on April 15. All group members arrived in Chicago the night before to meet early in the morning at the airport for check-in. After some issues with overweight luggage everybody held their ticket in their hands and we took the first group photos – faces slightly nervous before the big trip.
The flight from Chicago to Shanghai takes 14 hours and nobody was able to really sleep on the plane. So by the time we got to China, everybody was pretty exhausted. Due to a time difference of 13 hours it was already afternoon on April 16 at our arrival.