RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN)- It's been said that "art imitates life"; but for a group of local college students, art led them to the experience of a lifetime.
The students spent 3 weeks overseas studying Chinese art.
And the school says they're the first Americans ever to study at Baoding University.
Senior Nick Gainey was one of the group of 9 from Black Hills State University to take an unforgettable journey to China. The 8 students and their teacher spent three weeks learning about both Chinese art and culture. One of their projects was painting a lotus flower and it's leaves using ink, rice paper and bamboo paint brushes.
"I used the bigger brushes for making the stems and kinda more of the bigger darker areas and then using a smaller tool I put much more detail within the painting. I also used a lot of the smaller tools to make the flower petals," says Nick Gainey, a Senior at BHSU.
From Mid-May to Early June they were based at Baoding University, believed to be the first Americans ever to study there. Nick and the rest of the group's paintings are now on display lining some walls at BHSU's Woodburn Hall.
"Caligraphy is the date followed by our names, followed by our stamp with our name in it," Nick says.
They had to paint the caligraphy, but they were given the little name stamps at Baoding University.
The language there is Mandarin, and Nick says their Chinese teacher taught in Mandarin, so they had student translators helping them communicate.
"When we painted these, they ended up keeping them and they put on a gallery show for us and they presented our artwork and put them on these scrolls and then they hung them up in this gallery," Gainey says.
But a lot of what they learned was culture. Each person was given a Chinese name.
"My name in China was Bow Shung and it means tall mountain so it kinda fit well and people always laughed when they asked about it," he says.
The name fit because Nick is 6 foot 5 inches tall. And that height drew a lot of attention.
"Yeah it was pretty funny because whenever I met new people they would always go, you're so tall," as he smiles and demonstrates people's body language in response to his height.
"I was a walking celebrity when I was in China but now I came home. I'm just another average American dude," Nick says as he laughs.
Nick took a Mandarin language course at BH before the trip. But all the Americans took a Mandarin class while studying at Baoding.
"To say hello, simple one, Nee How. That's just a simple one and actually if you're talking to someone who's older than you, you're supposed to say Ning How. So it's kind of more respect for the elderly."
BHSU shared some pictures with us, as did one of Nick's classmates on the trip Jonathan Deuter capturing images from a place far far away from here in the Great Plains in the heart of America.
"Chinese food in China compared to Chinese food in America, not even comparable, not even comparable," Nick comments.
Nick grew up in Spearfish. His parents he says are both public school teachers. And Nick is majoring in Art Education...he also, would like to teach. Another assignment they had was to make a painting reflecting their impression of China. One weekend they were able to go to Beijing on the so called Bullet Train, a 3 hour car drive, took only twenty minutes
"We went up on the Wall and walked about 6 or 7 towers and then turned around and came back," Nick says.
"I really connected with the Great Wall when we were in Beijing. I also connected with the bullet train because it was realy cool being on one. And I also connected with the lotus pond which is right here," Nick explains as he points out the items in the collage painting.
This painting was a team effort of Nick and one of his Chinese colleagues, a student there.
"His English wasn't the best so he'd be like, no, no, no, no. Then he'd show me with his hands instead of his words, cause you know he didn't have them. so it was really a visual learning experience," Nick explains
He says he'll never forget this trip.
"I took about 10 rolls of film so about 320 photos of black and white film that I shot in China. And me shooting those photos is basically saving my memory," Nick explains.
Nick says the people in China were very nice, that he was smiling at people and they were smiling at him.
If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call or e-mail us to let us know.