During the three-day, two-night expedition, students visited the provincial capital of Urumqi as well as the ancient oasis city of Kashgar.
Aya, 25, a language student from a traditional Muslim family in Africa, was happy to attend, as she was interested to learn about how Muslim women in China think about their role in society and feminism in general.
“My mother was frightened when she learned where we were going,” Aya chuckled. “She’d heard a lot of negative information about that region.” Aya said she understood her concerns, the university assured her the trip would be safe and could provide a good opportunity to discover how ordinary women in rural China were finding their way in society.
As part of the program, Zhejiang Normal University organized conversations between the exchange students and local people of similar ages. In the Performance Hall in the provincial capital Urumqi, exchange students met Guli, a professional Chinese dancer. At 28, Guli is in the prime of her career. Together, the students and Guli talked about their lives and the societal and familial pressures they face.
A spokesperson for the University said conversations like these were the point of the exchange program. “Around the world, modern women face constraints and pressures from society, family and tradition. Some compromise, some struggle, and some engage in reform. We hope to give our students a view onto all aspects of the world and show them that people everywhere face similar issues.”
Aya, like the rest of her classmates, viewed the trip positively and hopes she can attend again. She greatly valued meeting who she referred to as the “Iron Women of Western China”.
Due to the success of the Spring semester program, Zhejiang Normal University is planning a second trip in Fall of 2022.