As part of its mission to prepare innovative learners and transformational leaders, who are compassionate, globally-minded citizens ready to change the world, Bluefield College began its third semester of academic, cultural and student exchange with China this fall.
Four students and one professor from the Jiangsu Second Normal University in Nanjing, China, are spending part of the fall semester on the BC campus, marking the third semester in a row the two schools have partnered in the international exchange of ideas, discussion, fellowship, and study.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Bluefield College family and the community at-large to experience the Chinese culture, history and language,” said Dr. Gerardo Cummings, director of BC’s Global Education Program. “We’re proud to be hosting the Chinese delegation from Nanjing. They are visiting the campus in order to understand our culture and to share their experiences of what life is like in China.”
Bluefield College signed an articulation agreement with the Jiangsu Second Normal University in the spring of 2009 during a BC mission trip to Nanjing and Beijing. Designed to “promote educational cooperation,” “friendly ties,” and “mutual benefits,” the agreement brought four Chinese students and one professor from Jiangsu Second Normal University to Bluefield in the fall of 2009.
BC reciprocated by sending a similar assembly to Jiangsu Second Normal University in the spring of 2010, and now this fall Professor Zhang Renlan and students Guo Xiang, Zhu Morong, Wang Yangkun and Wang Fan are in Bluefield furthering the relationship and academic exchange.
“We are very excited about this new group from Jiangsu Second Normal University,” said BC president, Dr. David Olive, “and we’re enjoying getting to know each of them and establishing new friendships as we learn more about each other’s cultures and traditions.”
The Chinese students are taking classes in American history, world civilization, English, and literature, among other courses of specific interest.
“Everyone is so friendly,” said Morong about the visit to Bluefield. “I love it here. I love the mountains and the scenery. Everyone always asks, ‘how are you?’ I feel the hospitality and friendliness.”
In addition to their studies and experiences on the BC campus, the college hosted the Chinese students on a tour of historical sites in Washington, D.C., including the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the National Gallery. BC also led the students on an adventure to the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and hiking excursions through the mountains of southwest Virginia.
“I really appreciate this country,” said Xiang. “Before we came to Bluefield College, we visited San Francisco, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., but the biggest surprise and greatest beauty I find is Bluefield.”
And, while the Chinese students are learning more about the American way of life, BC students are gaining a greater understanding of the Chinese culture through classes taught by Professor Renlan in Chinese history, literature, culture, and language.
“The most important opportunity to learn about the Chinese culture is through the classes,” said Dr. Cummings. “This is a great opportunity to engage with an ambassador of a great culture and to learn how and why the official language of China is the world’s number one most spoken language. For those planning to do business in China, for students who plan to study abroad there, or for anyone who is simply intrigued by the Chinese culture, history and language, Professor Renlan’s classes are enlightening.”
Outside of the classes in more informal settings, BC students discussed with Professor Renlan and the Chinese students the rigor of the Chinese curriculum. In those same casual settings, both the Bluefield and Jiangsu Second Normal University students gained a greater appreciation for each other’s interests, pastimes, music, art, and food.
“I love the food, especially chocolate ice cream, and I love the colorful mountains,” said Yangkun, who encouraged the BC students to reciprocate in the international exchange. “I invite you all to visit us in China. I want to be a guide for you.”
BC students will return to China in the spring of 2011, under the supervision of Dr. Donna Watson, professor and director of the Teacher Education Program. In addition to teaching and studying at the Jiangsu Second Normal University, the students will visit Beijing and the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace. While in Nanjing, the students will also work with mentally challenged individuals at the Amity Foundation’s Home of Blessing.
“It’s a phenomenal place to not only visit, but to stay a while,” said BC’s Dean of Students David Taylor, who traveled to China last spring. “The people there really opened their hearts to us and made us feel welcome.”