BC Students Study Abroad in China
Bluefield College students are learning about China, but not in a classroom on campus. Instead, the students are learning firsthand through trips to the Far East country.
July 25, 2013
Bluefield College students (from left) Danielle Preservati, Cheznee Daily, Jeremy Rickett and Kara Neal get excited about the historic sites they visit during a study exchange trip to China.
Students (from left) Danielle Preservati, Kara Neal, Jeremy Rickett and Cheznee Daily, with Professor Maria Zalduondo take in another historic site during their study exchange trip to China.
The Great Wall of China, one of several historic sites visited by the Bluefield College study exchange team.
In fact, four BC students recently returned from a 26-day trip to Nanjing, China, where they studied Chinese history, culture and language by living and learning among the natives.
The trip, part of a study exchange partnership with Jiangsu Second Normal University in Nanjing, helps fulfill the college’s overall mission to prepare innovative learners and transformational leaders and its global education initiative to increase awareness and appreciation of global cultures, languages, issues and traditions.
In fact, the college has been exchanging students, knowledge and culture with Jiangsu each semester since the fall of 2009 when a Chinese delegation visited Bluefield. This spring, BC sent its fourth consecutive group of students to Nanjing to“build bridges of understanding and mutual respect.”
“The China exchange program provides our students the unique opportunity to experience a culture, language and society that is very unique and different from our own,” said Dr. Maria Zalduondo, director of BC’s global education program who traveled with the students this spring. “Through this exchange experience, where our students converse, live and laugh with Chinese students of their own age, we gain an insight into a different culture. Through difference, we also develop an understanding of the commonality and familiarity of the human experience. As we interact with the Chinese, they become our friends. Our walls come down, and we build bridges of understanding and mutual respect.”
During their nearly month-long stay this spring, May 6-31, BC students Cheznee Daily of Mooresville, North Carolina, Kara Neal of Tannersville, Virginia, Danielle Preservati of Princeton, West Virginia, and Jeremy Rickett of Mooresville, North Carolina, studied at Jiangsu Second Normal University. Alongside students from Jiangsu, they took classes on Chinese culture, where they learned the customs, traditions, foods and tourist attractions of the specific regions or provinces of China.
“China is very different from America,” said Daily. “The people there are very family-oriented. Grandparents are a huge part of children’s lives. I would certainly recommend study abroad to other students, because it’s an experience that can change your outlook on the world and give you the opportunity to meet people who will become lifelong friends.”
At Jiangsu, the BC students also studied the Chinese language, including dialogue, greetings and other basic words and phrases. They also practiced calligraphy.
“It was quite amusing,” said Preservati about the language study, “because they (the Chinese) can speak English so well, but we had trouble learning just a few Chinese words.”
When not in class, the students traveled to various cities, including Nanjing, Beijing,Shanghai and Suzhou (the Venice of Asia), where they learned things about China that they never expected.
“China was not what I had expected it to be,” added Preservati. “I fell in love with the country and the people, and I learned to respect a culture that I did not know much about. The most rewarding part was definitely the friendships that I made with several students. I was so sad when we left, because I knew that would be the last time that I would ever see most of them. Becoming friends with someone a world away is something I will cherish forever.”
During their trips, they visited a range of historic sites, including The Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square. They learned not only historical facts about the sites, but also respect for the people behind the places.
“Traveling abroad teaches you not to take for granted what you have and shows you a different way of life,” said Preservati. “When traveling abroad you gain a sense of independence. It is very rewarding not only for yourself, but also for others you might inspire to respect and love other cultures.”
The BC students toured several historic gardens, including Zhan Garden, Yu Yuan Garden, and Master of Nets Garden, along with the Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Folk-Customs Museum, Presidential House, Confucius Temple, Jade Buddha Temple, and Shanghai’s Old Town.
“Each part of the trip gave us a different insight into how interconnected our world has become,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “We need to prepare our students to be the global citizens they will be required to be in the 21st century. Travel abroad provides students with the necessary international skills of adaptability, creativity and appreciation for diversity needed in our increasingly globally-minded commercial world.”
The students explored the Memorial Hall of Victims and its very graphic and sad depictions of the events of the Nanjing Massacre, the Brocade Museum and its wonderfuldesigns in clothing and art. They also toured the Amity Foundation’s printing factory, the world’s largest producer of Bibles.
“My favorite place was the Great Wall and the Nanjing Massacre Museum,” said Preservati. “I loved the Great Wall because I have always loved history, and the Great Wall is such a fascinating piece of history to learn about. So many people toiled to make this ancient wonder of the world.”
The BCstudy tour also included shopping at a series of government-run shops, where the tourists purchased jade, tea and pearls.
“I think our students were all surprised about the rampant capitalism that China, a communist country, embraces,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “They learned that although it is a one-party system, under communist rule it practices a very mixed economy that allows capitalism to flourish.”
During their informal learning time, the students also took in a performance of “The Legend of Kung Fu” that showcases China’s martial arts. They watched an acrobatics show and hiked Purple Mountain. In addition, each night they watched the locals practice dance, Tai Chi and martial arts at Mochou Lake Park and by Xuan Wu Lake.
“It was impressive to see how the Chinese go out at night and enjoy themselves by staying active,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “They don’t sit at home in front of a television at night as most of us do. Even the older members of the family take part in dancing and just having a blast in public space.”
The social time also included attending church, going to the theatre with the Chinese students and celebrating a birthday at a local Karaoke parlor.
“The students engaged in conversation with the Chinese students about their lives or interests,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “They went to the theatre with the Chinese students and discussed the films. This was very valuable, because we gained an insight into the modern concerns and issues of the young people as they reflected on their own college experience.”
And, of course, the cultural experience would not be complete without a lesson or two in the native cuisine, which included duck, eel, turtle, dumplings and, according to Dr. Zalduondo, “just about everything living under the sun.”
“The food was the most rewarding part of the trip for me,” added Daily, “having the chance to try all the different kinds of food, like jellyfish, black eel, pig brain and salted duck.”
As part of the partnership with Jiangsu, Bluefield College will host a group of Chinese students in Bluefield this fall, yet another opportunity, Dr. Zalduondo said, for students to make memories and to learn more about the People’s Republic of China.
“We made memories in China,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “We lived, worked and studied with ordinary Chinese people, who love life, seek to pursue happiness and believe that in their own way they are free. I will never forget their kindness andpervasive spirit of generosity. I hope more of our students, professors andmembers of the Bluefield community will seek to tour and study in this ancient, modern and incredible country.”