When Kristen Stanfill collects pollen from an American Chestnut Tree, she usually sees a tree no bigger than a shrub, surrounded by other small trees in an orchard. The senior biology University Honors (UHON) student assists Dr. Hill Craddock, UTC biology professor, who has been working for years to grow a tree that is resistant to an Asian fungus which has seriously threatened the species. Chinese chestnut trees are blight resistant.
Imagine Stanfill’s excitement as she stood beside a giant, healthy Chinese Chestnut Tree when she visited China with fellow University Honor’s students.
“To see a chestnut tree that big and that old—it was spectacular!” Stanfill exclaimed.
Her visit to China marked the first time the Columbia, Tennessee, native travelled outside the United States. She said this educational experience provided a new way to develop an open mind.
“You meet people from other countries, but to fully understand them, you should experience the way they live. I found I was able to very quickly dive into the culture,” Stanfill explained.
The summer visit to China was the first UHON trip to the Far East. The 16-hour flight was the first ever for some of the students and the first time out of the country for many of the students, according to Debbie Bell, Assistant Director of UHON.
“Four students travelled on scholarships provided by alumni and friends of the UHON Program expressly for this purpose,” Bell explained. “These are awarded to students who otherwise would not be able to afford the students’ portion of the cost for the trip.”
The visit to the Great Wall of China left everyone breathless—after an hour-long climb they were treated to an amazing view. Stanfill was excited to visit a place she had only seen and read about in books.
She discovered one of the differences Americans take for granted is personal space, something that doesn’t really exist in China.
“In an American market, or in a store, people generally line up. In China, it’s more of a free-for-all. If you are in a line and there’s space between you and the person in front of you, someone may squeeze in, so you have to be a little tough.”
In addition to Nanjing, the group spent four days in Beijing, two days in the “garden city” of Suzhou, and three days in Shanghai. There the group was treated to a performance of the Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe.
The adventure left Stanfill wanting more.
“Oh my gosh, I’m making a list of places I want to see. Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to see them all.”