When Charles Yu was a young boy in the 1930s, China was in turmoil. The central government was fighting internal revolutionary forces, poverty and crime were rampant, and imperialist Japanese forces had gained control of the northeastern provinces. Troops were steadily moving south toward Charles’s village when his family fled to Manila.
During a sunrise run in China’s remote Gansu Province last summer, Sam Rasmussen ’19 felt he was traveling back in time to China as it looked decades ago. He jogged on unpaved roads through desert terrain, past homes made of adobe and farmers working in their fields. When he needed a pit stop, a farmer led Rasmussen behind his house to a concrete slab over two holes in the ground.
Simon Gikandi, Princeton's Robert Schirmer Professor of English, wanted students to experience Africa up close: "not from outside, but from inside." He took them to places where they could wander through the streets, talk to residents, and question their own assumptions. In Gikandi's six-week global seminar, "African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures," students read about African cities from different perspectives—literary, sociological, historical—studied Twi, the local language, and immersed themselves in the sites and sounds of Accra.