BLUEFIELD COLLEGE PROFESSOR DR. SHARON PEROT, WHO RECENTLY TRAVELED TO CHINA WITH TWO BC STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN STUDY ABROAD, TEACHES A CLASS OF CHINESE STUDENTS AT JIANGSU SECOND NORMAL UNIVERSITY IN NANJING.
In fact, two Bluefield College students, Walter Gainer and David White, along with BC professor Dr. Sharon Perot, recently returned from a month of study in Nanjing, China, where they learned much about Chinese history, language and culture and returned with greater appreciation and respect for the Chinese people.
“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. “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.”
Bluefield College has been exchanging students with Jiangsu Second Normal University in Nanjing, China, since the fall of 2009. Jiangsu students visit Bluefield each fall for a semester of study, while BC students travel to China every spring.
This past spring, Gainer and White not only visited Nanjing, but they also traveled to Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. During their travels and studies, they said they learned how to cook Chinese food, cultural manners at formal events, and Chinese characters used when writing. They were also introduced to the language of Mandarin in a few of their classes and through interaction with the Chinese citizens.
“The biggest shock to me was that saying ‘thank you’ can be seen as odd,” said Gainer. “If a friend does something nice, you should not always say ‘thank you.’ A ‘thank you’ is used a lot for when something nice is done by a stranger or somebody you are not as familiar with.”
Gainer also mentioned how “the hospitality and the respect (they) experienced” exceeded his expectations as he shared stories of a local man who helped them communicate with a waiter at a restaurant and another local who offered them lessons in martial arts.
“The students we met in Nanjing would go out of their way to travel around the city with us and paid for our taxi even though we told them we could pay for it,” said Gainer. “There is not a single thing I enjoyed the most, because I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Bluefield College will continue the cultural exchange with China by welcoming Jiangsu students to the BC campus this fall.
“Through difference, we develop an understanding of the commonality and familiarity of the human experience,” said Dr. Zalduondo. “As we interact with the Chinese, they become our friends. Our walls come down, and we build bridges of understanding and mutual respect.”