BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh volleyball team will gain an once-in-a-lifetime experience when it travels to Beijing and Shanghai, China to not only tour the historic and magnificent cities, but also play tough opponents in Beihang University (BUAA) and East China University of Science and Technology, among others. Lehigh will then return the favor to host BUAA when Beihang visits the United States at a time yet to be determined.
"This isn’t just a volleyball experience, it’s an opportunity to see some of the great sights of the world," said Lehigh head coach Bob Bertucci. "A lot of the sights that they will have the opportunity to see, including the Great Wall, are much older than the United States. I think that will put things in perspective with our student-athletes.
"This exchange is a very healthy exchange for both groups," Bertucci continued. "This will also give them an opportunity to see our culture, universities and way of life. I think that will be an educational experience for them, more so than the volleyball experience."
The Mountain Hawks will depart from the United States on May 9 and will arrive in China on May 10. On the trip, Lehigh will visit the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven and tour the Capitol Museum, participate in cultural and sightseeing activities, while also playing intense overseas competition. Along with playing the host Beihang University, which is the defending champion of the Chinese University league, the Mountain Hawks will also play multiple universities and club teams throughout the trip.
"In addition to the cultural and educational experiences they will get, China is one of the best volleyball countries in the world and our team is going to get an opportunity to train at a level that they don’t normally have," said Bertucci. "We want to develop a young team and this will help us to prepare for the upcoming season."
After spending 10 days with host Beihang University, Lehigh will then travel to Shanghai to finish the trip. While in Shanghai, Lehigh will stay with host East China University of Science and Technology. There, the Mountain Hawks will participate in a river cruise, Dragon Boat tour the city of Su Zhou and visit the district campuses of the East China University of Science and Technology.
The Lehigh players will be able to use sport as a means to study abroad, enhancing their education and outlook with a deeper look into a different culture and way of life.
"This trip will be a two-fold type of experience," said Bertucci. "For some of the young ladies that have not had an opportunity to study abroad, this will be their first exposure. They will be able to delve into a completely deeply culture and understand it from the ground up. The fact that sport allows that to happen for them, it just makes it a better opportunity."
The Mountain Hawks will also participate in a formal discussion on the cultural differences related to sports while at the East China University of Science and Technology.
"We’re going to have the opportunity to meet and live with Chinese athletes on this trip which is going to give our team a different perspective on sports, and life in-general" said Bertucci. "The opportunity to experience the culture is going to be an eye-opening experience."
The trip will also be assistant coach Yun Yi Zhang’s homecoming as she leaves Lehigh to return to her home in Beijing. Zhang completed two years as an assistant coach on Lehigh’s staff after spending a year as a student assistant with her alma mater, Temple.
"It really means a lot to have Yi traveling with us," said Bertucci. "It’s going to be a great experience to have someone that worked with us the past two years be able to show us her country. That is just going to add a lot to this trip because she understands both countries, having spent the last few years immersed in the United States’ culture."
While in China, The Mountain Hawks will also learn from Zhang’s father, Luo Zhang, a professional volleyball coach in China for over 30 years and previously the manager and director of the men’s national team.
"I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mr. Zhang and he is true professional in the sport of volleyball," said Bertucci. "It is going to be pretty exciting for our girls to visit his club and his team, working with them, and also for him to have an opportunity to work with our girls."
Lehigh’s opponents in Beijing will include Jiaotong University, National Chio Tung University, Chaoyang Sports School, Lower East Side Sports School, Chinese Army, Beijing Club and Beihang University. The Mountain Hawks will then take on Fudan University, Shanghai Volleyball Club, Shanghai Sports Club and then East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai.
To support Lehigh’s trip to China, click the Support Lehigh Volleyball link as the Mountain Hawks could use your help with the team’s cultural and educational trip overseas.