Our pre-departure orientation lasted three days in June in Washington DC at the Grand Hyatt. About 60 students (both undergrads and grad students) and 30 scholars participated, some going to teach, most for research. It was an excellent orientation to the society, lifestyle, and social conditions in China, with lots of useful insights from Fulbright alumni. Most of the particulars were off the record, so I will leave it as such. Interestingly, the Chinese Embassy hosted a banquet for us. The Education adviser vigorously explained how beautiful his staff members were, obviously not accustomed to a politically correct academic audience (or perhaps any audience at all). Otherwise, the teaching alumni generally confirmed my own sentiments, that the students are very hard-working and will follow the instructor's wishes with no questions asked. Apparently, the host university will provide a facilitator/administrator (waiban) to resolve any problems, and who can help negotiate any classroom disputes, particularly cultural issues between student and teacher. I am excited to experience the classroom environment, and to find out what courses I will be teaching.
Now, I have to book my air tickets, get my visa, and plan what to take. Our next orientation wil be in-country, at the end of August in Beijing.
And oddly, on my flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC, right behind me sat Newt Gingrich, with his wife, flying coach, gotta give him credit for that. He explained to the young (and annoying) investment banker next to him (who asked the ex-Speaker 'when did you decide to run for president') his policy platform.