September 3, 2013

Peru student thrives on educational trip to China


PERU — A local student recently took an eye-opening trip to China and came back with personal honors.

Shayne Donoghue, 17, entering his senior year at Peru Central School, took part in the WE Model United Nations Expo in Beijing.

He was part of the 19-member All-America Model U.N. team organized by College Apprentice.

About 1,800 students from 52 delegations participated in the conference, which ran from July 31 through Aug. 4.


Donoghue represented Finland on the U.N. Commission on Population and Development Committee. He wrote a working paper on an education topic that passed in committee 14 to 3 and one on migration that passed unanimously.

The two topics they considered were the role of education in economic, political and social development and the role of international migration in those same areas.

Donoghue was one of eight members of the team to receive recognition as a Best Delegate, which earned the team five points for each.

Team members also earned six Outstanding Delegate awards, for three points each, and one Honorable Mention Delegate award and one Best Position Paper award, worth one point each.

“Our team won Best Large Delegation,” he said.


In a Global Village event, participants had a chance to demonstrate features of their home country.

A delegation from India gave a memorable demonstration on the annual festival of Holi, held in February or March. It involves throwing handfuls of brightly colored powders, which coat the faces of anyone in the area.

Donoghue said he has remained in contact with some members of that delegation and hopes to attend the actual festival someday.


Donoghue also took part in the WExplore program, which provided a three-day tour of Beijing before the conference. He said it was more than 100 degrees every day of the trip, with extreme humidity.

“It made you sweat buckets,” he said.

The smog in the air made it difficult to breathe. It also coated everyone with what he called the “Beijing film” that he found he could actually scrape off his skin.


The group toured Tienanmen Square the first day, a large thoroughfare near the Forbidden City and the final resting place of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung).

The Forbidden City is huge, Donoghue said, with many buildings painted in a variety of vivid colors. 

“It’s very colorful. It pops,” he said.

The entire area is laid out according to the principles of Feng Shui, Donoghue said, to be in balance with the forces of nature.

The group also toured a Buddhist temple and the Summer Palace, the home of emperors during the warmer months. They were able to take a short dragon-boat ride across the man-made lake in front of the palace.

The students enjoyed a Peking duck dinner, then returned to their rooms at about 10 p.m. Donoghue said most guest beds are extremely firm. 

“The beds are so hard, but you’re so exhausted.”


The second day, they visited the Temple of Heaven, where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would pray for a good harvest.

While the students were in Beijing, the only Internet service they had access to was the Chinese version of Google, so they knew the information they could get was censored.


The third day, the group went to the Great Wall and then a Hutong market. Even though they had been advised not to eat foods cooked at the market, Donoghue said he tried a cicada and then a scorpion, both fried and served on a stick.

They were crispy and salty, cooked without breading but with a variety of spices.

“I liked the scorpion. I would eat that again,” he said.


After the conference, Donoghue was part of a group that traveled 12 hours by sleeper train to Xi’an for additional tours. That was his first chance to connect with Facebook and talk to his parents, Karen and John Donoghue Jr.

His group first went to the City Wall, a 8.5-mile-long structure surrounded by a deep moat.

He later learned some Chinese calligraphy at the Tang Dynasty Art Museum, followed by an all-you-can-eat dumpling dinner and Tang Palace Dance Show.

The show told the story of an emperor who ordered his chef to make 300 types of dumplings for the empress, each in the shape of the animal from which the filling was made.

Donoghue said their dumplings were flavored with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic.

“It was the best dinner we had there,” he said.


The next day, Donoghue visited the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warrior and Horses. Dating back to before 210 B.C., the site was discovered in 1974.

Excavation has unearthed thousands of life-sized warrior and horses in battle formations. Work on the site continues to this day.

“It was pretty amazing, seeing this huge field with all those soldiers there,” he said.

The final day in Xi’an, they watched children practice at a Kung Fu palace. Donoghue even had a personal practice with an 8-year-old boy.

“They could kill me with a finger. It was jaw dropping to watch them do this,” he said.

They then traveled by high-speed rail back to Beijing and boarded the plane for home.

Donoghue said it was the trip of a lifetime.

“It’s definitely something I will remember forever.”

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