By Rachel Byrd
Prior to the start of the Fall semester, Professor Richard Almstedt, A. B. D., visited the University of Macau in China on sabbatical. In order to go on sabbatical, a professor must apply to a sabbatical review board with a project in mind. In the case of Professor Almstedt, this project was to work with the athletics program of the University of Macau in China and to compare their college model to Lone Star College-Kingwood’s college model. He also took his wife with him to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Although he had the opportunity to visit Macau in 1972, this was Almstedt’s first time to visit China.
The University of Macau has twelve different colleges on campus, so the athletics program was far bigger than Professor Almstedt anticipated. For example, there were twenty different men and women’s basketball teams. He worked with twelve of them, starting around five o’clock at night and ending at midnight.
“It was fun,” said Professor Almstedt, “but it was a lot more than I thought I was going to be doing.”
The week before Harvey made landfall in Texas, Macau was hit with a typhoon. By the time Professor Almstedt arrived at the University of Macau, their campus had returned to running at full capacity.
The University of Macau has multiple colleges on its campus. Everyone speaks English, as learning English is required to attend the university. One day a week, each of the colleges would work on English. Professor Almstedt would help students in these classes practice holding conversations in English.
Professor Almstedt noted that the student government of the University of Macau was “exactly a clone of our student government.” He also saw that they had many of the same clubs and student organizations on campus as Lone Star College had. The University of Macau’s dance groups even used much of the same music as the dance groups at Lone Star College.
“There were just so many similarities,” he said. Later on, he added. “There were more similarities than differences with the students.”
There were also differences, however. One was the number of students on each campus. There are roughly 100,000 students enrolled in the entire Lone Star College system. The University of Macau is smaller by comparison, with about 12,000 students total. The size of Lone Star’s student body surprised many of the Chinese students.
Another difference was the students never called Professor Almstedt “Coach”. Even the players on the basketball team always called him professor. “‘Professor’ is like a term of endearment over there,” he explained. He also noted that they “treated [their] professors very well.” In Macau, the university pays for all professors’ housing and meals.
Whenever Professor Almstedt was scheduled to lecture, he would be brought to the university in a limousine. When he was coaching, he would take the bus. In other cases, such as when he and his wife visited Beijing, he would take the subway. The subways system was very clean, but there was little concept of personal space.
“When the subway stops, you don’t wait for [the other passengers] to get off. Everybody just runs into each other,” he said. “Same way in crowds.” Despite this, he also said that the Chinese people he met were, “extremely friendly.”
The food was, in Almstedt’s words, “exceptional”, but he also advises readers who plan to visit China to learn how to use chopsticks, saying, “If you don’t know how to use chopsticks, I suggest you practice before you go to China, because they don’t give you knives and forks at most places.” He and his wife were able to travel elsewhere in China as well, visiting the Great Wall, the Terracotta Soldiers and various temples.
Professor Almstedt encourages students to visit China if they can. “It was a great visit,” he said. “If you ever get the chance to go–go. You will definitely not regret it and I will go back.” Later on, he also stated, “It was an education in itself. I think I learned more from them then they probably learned from me.”