In preparation for its upcoming trip to China for a series of exhibition games, Drexel’s men’s basketball team received some expert coaching in Chinese culture from Han Chiang, well-known restaurateur and owner of seven Han Dynasty restaurants in Philadelphia and New York City.
On Monday, Chiang introduced the team to authentic Chinese dishes from his restaurant as preparation for what to expect abroad. Chiang, who was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States when he was 13, gave advice on what to expect in China — or, mostly, what not to do in China. The tidbits included never holding the door open for someone, never letting someone pay for the bill before fighting them for it, and trying not to waste a lot of food.
The No. 1 tip he gave was to understand that the Chinese food that Americans eat in America is not the type of cuisine they will find in China.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You have to be very adventurous and try everything,” he advised.
Chiang, who attended Drexel as an electrical engineering student from 1996 to 2000, also told the team not to be scared of some culture shock. To prepare for this, he brought bowls, rather than plates, for the players to eat from, and even showed some players how to correctly use chopsticks to eat rice.
During the trip, the men’s team will have breakfast provided by the hotel and a guide and interpreter during most days. But now, they will be a little more prepared for the times when they’re on their own.
The team is scheduled to play four games against one professional team and three university teams during the exhibition tour, which is from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3. The team will play in Shanghai and in Beijing, including a game against Shanghai Jiaotong University, which Drexel has had a partnership with since 2011.
There will be some fun with the games on the trip, too. While in China, the team will travel to significant historical and cultural destinations such as Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China.
The last time the basketball team played abroad was in Istanbul, Turkey, four years ago. None of the current players was on the roster then, and Coach Bruiser Flint said that this was going to be a huge trip for the team.
“This trip isn’t just going to be about basketball. We’re also going to see things that the guys have read about, and now they’ll get the chance to see it in person,” he said.
Even more extraordinarily, the team won’t hold any practices during the 10-day tour.
“Whenever we travel, we have a saying that it’s ‘go everywhere and see nothing.’ We fly in the night before, practice and play the game, and then leave afterwards. We travel a lot, but we don’t really get to do anything. When we’re in China, we’re just going to play the games and we’ll get a chance to see some stuff,” Flint said.
Before the trip starts, the team is using some co-operative education, appropriate for Drexel students, to understand more about China. In addition to the Han Dynasty meal, the team will also attend a PowerPoint session and discussion with Lucia Cucinotta, an assistant director in the Drexel Study Abroad Office.
“We could have sent the team YouTube videos of what to expect in China, but we really wanted to find the best way to emerge them in culture, and part of that is food,” said Nyree Dardarian, an instructor and director of the Center for Integrated Nutrition in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and performance coordinator of the Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway. Dardarian helped put together the Han Dynasty meal for the team.
Drexel has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with China. Since 2007, Drexel has built relationships with some of the top academic and research institutions in China, including Shanghai Jiaotong University. In 2012, Drexel and the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Science formalized a partnership to open the Drexel-SARI Research Center in Shanghai, where researchers collaborate on a variety of research projects.
Drexel students also have a strong connection to China as well. Every year, Drexel sends between 45 and 70 students and faculty to China for conferences, study abroad, research opportunities and co-ops. Back in Philly, Drexel currently has about 1,500 international graduate and undergraduate students from China on campus.