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Cover of Spring - Summer 2003 Issue

 

East Meets West

Chinese Students
Seated (from left): Wen Zhuang, Jiali Liu, Yanyan Sheng and Huili Li. Standing (from left): Yanbin Ge, Feng Xu and Yuan Xue.
The students, all female business majors, are the first group from the Anhui (pronounced Ahn-way) University of Technology in Ma'anshan. Some 20 Anhui students are expected this fall and 30 the following year, when it will expand from a business focus to all disciplines. In the first Longwood-to-Anhui exchange, some 12 Longwood students took a three-credit Chinese history and culture course at the Chinese university in 2005. The exchange is a result of Longwood's participation in the Sino-American Leadership Training Initiative (SALT), co-sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Chinese Education Association for International Exchange. In 2002, the second year of the SALT program, Longwood was one of 12 U.S. colleges and universities paired with an institution in China.

Three of the Chinese students at Longwood - Huili Li, Yanyan Sheng and Jiali Liu - went home after this academic year. The others - Yanbin Ge, Feng Xu, Yuan Xue and Wen Zhuang - will return for one more year at Longwood. Feng and Wen are majoring in international trade, the others in economics. All are considered sophomores since last year was their first year at Anhui; all will return to their home university, from which they will receive their degrees, and all plan to attend graduate school.

They lived in a residence hall and ate in the dining hall. Each took 15 or 16 credit hours in the spring semester, after a 12-hour load in the fall. Several members of the Longwood community, particularly Lonnie Calhoun, director of multicultural affairs and international student services, and student Jennifer Higgins, helped acclimate them to American college life.

Following a custom for Chinese students, each has an American name. Huili is Lee, Yanyan is Apple, Jiali is Jolie, Yanbin is Persephone, Feng is Iris, Yuan is Vivian, and Wen is Tracy.

They were asked about differences between the two countries. "The biggest difference is the food; it's more fattening here," says Jiali. "Also, the vegetables here are eaten raw, but in China they're cooked. And the shape of the noodles is different. I like American food, though." Her favorite American food? "Hot dogs!" she quickly said. Yanyan's is ice cream. Jiali's is cheesecake.

Another difference involves the use of computers in college. "Computers are used in daily life in China, but not for homework," says Huili. Just like here, she added, computers are common in homes. "In China you spend more time in class, but there's less homework," says Yuan.

Very few college students in China have a car; most families have only one car, and it's a sign of wealth for a college student to own a car, they say. "Lots of students have bicycles. We have bicycles just like the students here have cars," says Huili.

Yanbin is from Ma'anshan; Jiali is from Anhui province, where Ma'anshan is located; Yuan, Feng and Wen are from Shanghai, four hours away (though Feng grew up in Anhui province); Huili is from Yuhuan island near Taiwan; and Yanyan is from Zhoushan island near Shanghai. It takes Huili some 17 hours to get home, and she has to travel by "train, bus and ship." Yanyan's trip home is 10 hours; a bridge now connects her island to the mainland. Chinese college students typically have a longer trip home than American students, they say.

Interestingly, Wen attended the same secondary school in Shanghai as National Basketball Association (NBA) star
Yao Ming, one of China's most popular athletes. The NBA is wildly popular in China, they say, and superstar Kobe Bryant is a household name there, just as in the United States.

The students visited Washington, D.C., during fall break and New York City over the winter break, accompanied by Lonnie Calhoun. In New York they saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, went window-shopping on Fifth Avenue and visited 42nd Street. In Washington they toured the U.S. Capitol, saw the White House (from the outside) and visited museums. Over the winter break they stayed in the homes of faculty and staff members.

The Chinese history and culture course for Longwood students at Anhui, from May 15 to June 4, was co-taught by Dr. Geoffroy de Laforcade, assistant professor of history, and an Anhui professor. The students, each of whom was paired with a Chinese "buddy" from Anhui, learned some conversational Chinese, history, art and literature (in English translation), and they took trips to Yellow Mountain (one of China's most famous scenic spots), Nanjing and Shanghai.

Anhui University of Technology has about 12,000 undergraduates and a total enrollment numbering 20,000. Its most popular majors include accounting, English, math, computer science and engineering. The university, founded as a joint venture between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Metallurgy, is known in China for its "applied, practical research in engineering and science, particularly related to steel," says Dr. William Dorrill, a former Longwood president and China specialist who helped launch the exchange program. Ma'anshan - Chinese for "Horse Saddle Mountain" - which isn't a big city by Chinese standards (population: 350,000), is in east-central China some 50 miles up the Yangtze River from Nanjing, formerly Nanking, China's ancient capital. Ma'anshan is known for its heavy industry but is a clean city, says Dr. Dorrill.

In October 2003 Dr. Dorrill and Dr. John Reynolds, Longwood's director of international affairs, initiated the exchange by going to Anhui, where they met with the university's president, Dr. Dong Yuanchi. Anhui's vice president for teaching and research, Dr. Chen Dahong, visited Longwood in March 2004 to complete the paperwork for the agreement. Dr. Dorrill returned to Anhui last October along with Dr. Lily Goetz, Longwood's acting director of international affairs (Dr. Reynolds is in Austria on a sabbatical this academic year). Dr. Dorrill and Dr. Goetz also attended a conference in Beijing and visited U.S. consular officials there and in Shanghai about expediting visa applications for Chinese students who want to study in the United States.