In May 2018, Dr. Kim Farmer, professor, and chair of the department of criminal justice spent a month in China, touring major sites while experiencing the classroom in a different culture as part of Bluefield’s academic exchange program with Jiangsu Second Normal University.
The program, established in 2009 by Dr. Robert Shippey, now an online professor of Christian Studies, in conjunction with Bluefield College President, Dr. David Olive, seeks to provide an expanded geographic horizon for as many students and faculty as possible.
“I hoped that we could make the world a smaller place and a kinder place by bringing people from different geographic, political, and religious perspectives together and I hoped, that in doing so, we could also extend the footprint of Bluefield College beyond its immediate home in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains,” said Shippey. Farmer, a native of Bluefield, W. Va., experienced just that on her visit.
Her month-long experience started when landing in Beijing, where she spent three days before flying to Nanjing, the city where Jiangsu Second Normal University is located. After three weeks, she took a train to Shanghai before flying back to the United States.
During her trip, she visited Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace of the Emperors along with local sites in each city.
While at Jiangsu Second Normal University, Dr. Farmer taught six classes, each meeting three times during her stay. She was apprehensive if the students would be interested in crime or the American justice system. Farmer recounted on how safe and welcomed she felt during her stay and reiterated how hospitable and kind everyone she met was. Farmer said, “I wasn’t ever afraid. I didn’t know a lick of the language, yet I felt comfortable to walk downtown by myself, go shopping, or walk to the supermarket.”
Experiencing the culture allowed Farmer to adjust her teaching style to best interact with the students. A self-proclaimed lecturer, she worried if she bored students due to the lack of questions at the end of the class period. What she realized was the students interacted better to a one-on-one approach, asking questions when there was not a big group involved. She also realized the fewer people in the group, the more likely the students were to talk openly about crime.
Farmer said her most memorable moment during her trip became her favorite classroom experience ever. “I prepared a PowerPoint of my favorite things, and one of the slides had Elsa and Anna from Frozen. I talked about my granddaughters and [the song] “Let it Go.” I mentioned how I missed them, and the students asked to see pictures. The next week the teacher said they had a surprise for me. I walked into the room, and they had flowers for me, and they learned “Let it Go” in English. It was just so sweet it makes me cry thinking about it,” said Farmer.
Farmer added how touching it was to be asked about American social and cultural norms. Among the questions, Dr. Farmer explained college dating and was amazed at how different it can be in China. Most women do not date in college, and they only introduce their significant other to their family once they have decided to get married. Farmer said, “Their basic human concerns are the same. They want to be happy; they want balance in life, and they want their families to feel loved.” The most touching question came from a professor at the University who asked, “When you have a second child, do you have enough love for them?”
“More than enough,” replied Farmer. “With every child, your love multiplies.”