Bluefield College began the exchange program with Jiangsu Second Normal University in the fall of 2009 by welcoming four Chinese students and a professor to the BC campus. Two Bluefield students and a professor returned the favor with a trip to Nanjing in the spring of 2010. Since then, the two colleges have continued the fall-spring swap with the latest trip this fall featuring four Jiangsu Second Normal University students in Bluefield.
“I had a wonderful time with the students from Jiangsu Second Normal University,” said BC art professor Walter Shroyer. “They were great representatives of their college. Their attitude and behavior were superior. Our students from Bluefield College were excited to meet such great ambassadors from China.”
As part of Bluefield College’s mission to prepare globally-minded students who impact the world, the academic exchange program with Jiangsu Second Normal University is designed to “promote educational cooperation,” “friendly ties,” and “mutual benefits.” Toward that end, students from the visiting country attend classes alongside students from the host country. This fall, the visiting Chinese students studied criminal justice, human growth, foundations of education, research methods, children’s literature, world literature, British literature, and creative writing in classrooms alongside BC students.
“I attended a creative writing class and students have a lot of chances to speak themselves,” said Sun Lisha, who also goes by the American name, Lisa. “I think that’s interesting, because there are few chances for students to express their own ideas in China.”
The Chinese students also took part in classes on public relations, instructional media, art appreciation, printmaking, photography, piano, and conducting.
“I get a better understanding of America as a country on the wheel,” said Lisa about her interaction with BC students inside and outside of the classroom, “and I know better about the open and inclusiveness of the different things, as well as the sentence, ‘live and let live.'”
The learning portion of the exchange for the Jiangsu Second Normal University students also included field trips to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, and to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., where they learned about American history. In Washington, the students visited the White House; toured memorials, museums, galleries, and gardens; and viewed the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. In Monticello, they toured Jefferson’s mansion, the plantation, gardens, and other parts of the historical estate.
“The trip to America enriched my personal experience,” said Ge Mengtian, who also goes by the American name, Daisy. “I highly recommended it, since it gives you a wider angle next time you see things. I learned a lot more than in a classroom back in China. Yet, what I cherish most is the friendship I built in Bluefield.”
Within the community, the Chinese students visited local churches, hiked Pinnacle Rock, and strolled the Cascades. They also shared meals and birthdays with BC students and took part in tie-dye parties and the school’s Homecoming festivities.
“For the first time in my life, I went caving and rock climbing,” said Daisy. “It was exciting, interesting, and relaxing when taking part in such outdoor sports. Some teachers even invited me to their house, which made me feel honored.”
The Jiangsu Second Normal University students became a part of a community where, they said, “differences are encouraged and respected” and where cultures “live harmoniously with each other.”
“When I share my photos of life in America in Renren, which is a Chinese version of Facebook, my friends are excited and ask me questions about life in America,” said Lisa. “I will always tell my friends about my experience as a exchange student at Bluefield College, because it’s an awesome time, and I made a lot of friends there in America.”
As part of their giving portion of the exchange, the Chinese students shared presentations with BC students about Chinese history, language and culture, including information about Chinese food, greetings, and cities. They also offered BC students lessons in world literature, specifically the influence of Socrates and Confucius on Chinese culture.
“They may be at Bluefield College learning about our culture,” said BC student Heather Paisley, “but BC students are learning about their culture, as well.”
Joining Lisa and Daisy as part of the Chinese delegation visiting Bluefield this fall were Zhang Hantian, also known as Harry, and Liu Jinwen, also known as Ruby.
“America is really an amazing country,” said Ruby. “It’s our dream to come here and now my dream has come true.”