Back to the Middle Kindgom!!

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:54 am by Benjamin Ross

I’m going back!  Not back back, as in revoking my US citizenship, marrying a Chinese countryside woman, and joining the CCP .  But I’m going back to China…for 4 months…on March 28.  I haven’t stepped foot in the Middle Kingdom since spring of 2009, which in China time is several decades of social change.  So in a way, it will be like going to China for the first time all over again.  In another way, it will also be like Austin Powers.

So what am I doing in China for 4 months?  As part of my PhD requirement, I am required to be a TA (teaching assistant) for 5 quarters worth of undergraduate classes.  Two years ago, the University of Chicago opened the UChicago Beijing Center as a research and teaching base for the University’s operations in the Middle Kingdom.  One of the programs at the Beijing Center is the Beijing Social Sciences Study Abroad Program in China.  Undergrad students from U of C spend a quarter in Beijing where they take bona fide UChicago classes, receive Chinese language training, and (presumably?) get out and explore China.  If you want a better explanation, click the links above.

So when an offer came around that they needed a TA for the Beijing Study Abroad program, I jumped on the opportunity as a chance to return to China, jump-start some preliminary dissertation fieldwork, and check off the boxes for a chunk of my TAing responsibility.

For the study abroad program, there are 11 UChicago undergrad students, from various majors within the social sciences.  Each is required to take 3 courses, for which I will be the TA (Chinese Society, History of Beijing, and China’s Economic Development in Transition).  The first two are taught by UChicago professors, and the latter by a local Chinese professor.  What does a TA do??  That varies from course to course, and as of now I’m not entirely sure what my responsibilities will be other than sitting in on class and doing the readings.  I’m also going to be the “program assistant,” which as I understand it so far, I’m the “Oh shit!” person  in case a student loses their passport, catches food poisoning, or gets too drunk and wakes up on a train to Qinghai.

I’m leaving for China on March 27, and our school quarter finishes June 9.  I don’t go back to Chicago until August 1 with the idea that I’ll have some extra time to travel, visit friends, and focus on research when the quarter wraps up.  I’d love to make some promises of what this means for the future of this blog, but those of you who have stuck around reading all these years probably know how far those promises usually go.  Best I can say is, stick around and see.  I’ll try to have some interesting photos and observations up as soon as I can.



Geography Class Fieldtrip: Chicago to the Mississippi River

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 12:38 pm by Benjamin Ross

These pics are from a Historical Geography Class that I TA for called Changing America in the 20th Century taught by Prof. Michael Conzen at the University of Chicago. The 2-day trip, “Chicago to the Mississippi River,” was designed by Prof. Conzen, who came along as our tourguide. Along the route, we made stops in Warrenville, Aurora, De Kalb, Rochelle, Oregon, Grand Detour, Sterling-Rock Falls, Moline, Davenport, Rock Island (where we stayed the night), Arsenal Island, Augustana College, Cambridge, Bishop Hill, Kewanee, Princeton, and La Salle, all in 36 hours. For the class, each student has to do a research paper chosen from a list of topics, each connected to one of the towns along the field trip. At each stop, the student whose paper was connected with the site gave an 8 minute presentation on their research findings.

I-88 Research Corridor, Warrenville, IL
Transit Center, Aurora, IL
DeKalb, IL
old stretch of brick highway, near Rochelle, IL
Ogle County Courthouse, Oregon, IL
China House, Oregon, IL (the local Chinese restaurant….run by Fuzhou migrants)
more Oregon
industrial brownfields, Sterling, IL
John Deere Pavilion and Visitors Center, Moline, IL
Downtown Moline
Rhythm City Casino, Davenport, IA
Centennial Bridge, connecting Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA
Government Bridge, also connecting Rock Island and Davenport
The Davenport SkyBridge
inside the SkyBridge
student presentations inside the SkyBridge
Davenport Skyline
Downtown Rock Island
student presentations along the bank of the Mississippi River in Rock Island
Augustana College, Rock Island, IL
Government Bridge, viewed from Arsenal Island
a short, 1-block boulevard from the City Beautiful Movement, in the small town of Cambridge, IL
Henry County Courthouse, Cambridge, IL
student presentations in Cambridge
Cambridge “College Square”
P.L. Johnson’s Dining Room, a taste of Sweden in Bishop Hill, IL
Good’s Furniture Store, Kewanee, IL
lock on the abandoned Hennepin Canal
The Hegeler Mansion, Lasalle, IL
the road back to Chicago

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