By Sandra Seitz
Hong Kong and Macau, one a former British protectorate and the other Portuguese, are powerhouse locations for commerce and industry. Both are densely populated islands at the edge of mainland China that are rich in culture, history and large corporations.
Twelve UMass Lowell students got to know Macau and Hong Kong firsthand this summer. They spent a month at the University of Macau, along with 20 Chinese students, thanks to the work of Stephen Saravara, lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
Saravara taught the combined group a course on industrial security and asset protection. With follow-up work this semester, UMass Lowell students will earn six credits. Each UMass Lowell student was assigned a partner from among the Macau students, so they could explore the local sights and learn about the culture.
“The students were well integrated and got along very well,” says Saravara. “I gave them cultural assignments each week – visiting temples, the panda park, a dragon show – and required written reports from the UMass Lowell students to reinforce the cultural aspects of the trip.”
Because Saravara has professional connections with business security managers in major corporations, the students got to look behind the scenes in some fascinating places. Each Thursday was field-trip day, and the group visited the security department of the Venetian Casino, one of the world’s largest; the HSBC Bank, a global entity; and Disneyland Hong Kong.
UMass Lowell student Justin Patel enjoyed the coursework and security tours so much that he’s added a minor in business to his criminal justice major, to learn more about corporate operations.
“We went behind the scenes at Disney, met their emergency response teams and saw the control rooms. Everything we studied in class, we saw in action in the field,” says Patel. “It’s one of the greatest opportunities: when would you ever go to Macau and get a private tour in a huge casino or a bank in Hong Kong?”
Living and studying with the Chinese students made all the difference in exploring a new area.
“It was fun collaborating with the students and we made amazing friends,” says senior Kelly McCarthy, who majors in both criminal justice and languages. Having been to Japan previously, McCarthy was familiar with Asian culture, but “the language was very different and the food was interesting,” say says. “You have to have an open mind when you’re tasting things. New cultures bring surprises.”
Senior Carthy Fabre also found the Chinese students “very courteous, though sometimes shy,” he says. Having emigrated from Haiti in 1995, and transferred recently from Northern Essex Community College, “I didn’t know when I would get a chance like that, to study in Macau, if I were not a UMass Lowell student,” says Fabre.
Saravara kept the trip very affordable, according to senior Shaun Murphy.
“The Chinese students were really helpful, too, in steering us to the non-touristy places to visit,” says Murphy, who appreciated having enough free time to explore both cities. Unlike what he’d heard about China before going, he found it “awesome,” Murphy says. “Macau was like Las Vegas set in Hawaii.”
Both Macau and Hong Kong are officially part of China, but are run as Special Administrative Regions where international trade and commerce are concentrated.