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Oregon women's soccer team heads to Beijing with cultural goals

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-01 11:12

The University of Oregon's women's soccer team is destined for China later this month, but the trip won't be all fun and games.

In preparation for its June 19-25 sporting/sightseeing excursion to Beijing, the team split into four different groups, with each given the task of researching and presenting topics ranging from China's cultural impact on the world, the game of soccer in China, history of sites the team will visit and the study of Chinese words and phrases.

Chin Yi Chen, Global Education Oregon (GEO) study abroad adviser at the university, made a "cross cultural presentation" to the team on May 19, the athletics department's goducks.com website reported.

Oregon women's soccer team heads to Beijing with cultural goals

In a video from one of the group sessions, team members learned the four tones of pronunciation for the Chinese word ma, spelled in pinyin, which all can mean different things. Then they found out that road signs wouldn't be in pinyin but rather Chinese characters.

The team has two Chinese-American players on its roster - standout defender Caitlyn Wong, a junior and Pac-12 All-Academic first teamer, and freshman Jessica Yu, both from the Silicon Valley city of Sunnyvale, California - and Mertz believes it will be their first trip to China.

Wong and Yu also excelled during the Mandarin pronunciation session.

"Going into a different country, especially one not many people have traveled to or visited, can be nerve-wracking, but I think these presentations ... have helped give them an idea of some things they can expect," said Lisa Peterson, the university's senior women's administrator for sports.

"From researching the places we will actually be experiencing in person, it has given the team some ownership over the trip as well," she said. "It has made it more real. The memories and experiences these girls will have with their teammates are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives."

Oregon women's soccer team heads to Beijing with cultural goals

The team will tour the Forbidden City, the Silk Market and the Great Wall, as well as visit the Nike office (Nike, co-founded by Oregon alumnus Phil Knight, is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon), Beijing Foreign Studies University, and play friendly games against the Beijing University women's all-star soccer team and the Beijing women's youth team.

The Oregon Ducks team also hopes to have dinner with Oregon alumni who currently live in China.

"It will be a great experience for our program, not only for soccer, but also culturally. It has also been an educational opportunity for our team as they learn more about the community and culture of Beijing. In addition, foreign trips really bond a team because of the experience all of them are sharing, and can have a positive impact as they head into their season in the fall," Peterson said.

The Pac-12 conference laid the groundwork for the trip, as it has sent other sports teams on trips to China the past couple of years.

The Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC), China's NCAA, will pick up the tab for the team's stay.

"I'm excited to travel with our team to a foreign country to experience the cultural differences, play international soccer and soak up everything we can together as a team," said Head Coach Kat Mertz.

Oregon also hopes to give some lessons on the field, but they could be in for some tough matches.

"They want to win," said Mertz of the Ducks' opponents, and wouldn't be surprised to see a few of China's international team's players take to the pitch in one of the games, a scenario that Duke University faced on a similar trip last year.

Contact the writer at williamhennelly@chinadailyusa.com

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