As part of its mission to prepare globally-minded students who impact the world, Bluefield College sent two of its students and a professor to China this summer for an academic and cultural exchange with the Jiangsu Second Normal University.
The summer 2011 trip to China marked the fourth semester in a row the two schools have participated in the international exchange of ideas, discussion, fellowship and study, which began in the fall of 2009 when four Jiangsu Second Normal University students and a professor visited the BC campus. Designed to “promote educational cooperation,” “friendly ties,” and “mutual benefits,” the study exchange is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“It’s a great way to experience the Chinese culture, history and language,” said Dr. Gerardo Cummings, director of BC’s Global Education Program, “and a great way to understand one another and to share experiences of what life is like in our countries. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students.”
The BC students — Lydia Freeman, a rising senior communications major from Bristol, Virginia, and Amber MacDonald, a rising senior education major from Beckley, West Virginia — joined Professor Walter Shroyer — an art teacher with more than 20 years of experience at Bluefield — on the summer 2011 trip to Nanjing and Beijing.
The BC visitors toured a variety of historic sites in Beijing, including the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Ming tombs, and the Great Wall of China. They also experienced authentic Chinese food and hospitality and learned much about the humility and kindness of the Chinese people.
“Our tour guide, Wang, was wonderful to us,” said Shroyer. “The first moment we met him he said, ‘I am more than your guide. I will be your friend. I will take care of you, and I will protect you. I want to build trust with you.’ That he did.”
The BC delegation also worked with special needs adults, taught English as a second language, and attended one of the various church services offered on Sundays, some in English and others in Chinese.
“The service was very similar to the one I go to in Bluefield — songs, scripture reading, sermon, the Lord’s Prayer, The Apostle’s Creed, Gloria Patri, doxology, and communion,” said Shroyer. “One of the things I enjoyed most about the service was that the communion was given in Chinese. Now that was special.”
In addition, the BC group toured museums and exhibits on Chinese history and culture. They visited the Nanjing Art Institute, Purple Mountain, and the Eighth Wonder of the World in the Terra Cotta Warriors. Most importantly, they studied and lectured alongside Chinese students at the Jiangsu Second Normal University.
“I learned a great deal about the history of China,” said Freeman. “I read about the massacre, studied generals and revolutionaries. I wish I had known more before I went. I read stories about missionaries who went to China my whole life, but it is like looking at a painting and understanding what you are seeing, but not truly understanding why the entire background exists.”
Shroyer taught students at Jiangsu Second Normal University about American culture, history, geography, and art. He also lectured on art education and art history in America.
“It was a wonderful experience,” he said, “and the people in China were very kind to me. I will never forget their kindness. The food was delicious, although at times a little strange, but I just went with the idea of ‘just try.'”
The BC students studied Chinese history and culture at Jiangsu Second Normal University. They attended a Chinese painting class, participated in question-and-answer sessions, and “had incredibly stimulating conversations with the Chinese college students.”
“I love China,” said Freeman. “I love the people in China and the places in China. I love the food, the culture, the lifestyle. I am so glad I went.”