Students Take First Service-Learning Trip to China

Monday, June 30, 2008

Campus communities often take for granted the many steps that foreign students take to prepare themselves for American college life. As part of the new service-learning course Writing through Race, Class and Gender-China, Ann Green, Ph.D., professor of English, accompanied six SJU students to China to help Chinese university students practice their English for upcoming study abroad trips to the U.S. The month-long excursion, which ran from May 23 through June 21, took the group through four major cities – Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi'an, and Beijing – and allowed the students to experience a compelling exchange of vocabulary, cultural ideas and new perspectives.

Each day, the SJU students entered university-level classrooms to interact with small groups of Chinese students. From the first teaching session, communication started at a basic level, where the U.S. students helped their Chinese counterparts choose English names, then vice versa. Discussions then moved on to identifying simple food items and popular cultural icons. Doing so not only prepared the Chinese students for their future travels to America, but it opened the eyes of the SJU students and helped them learn about Chinese culture.

"My biggest concern about meeting the Chinese students was that I would take on a teacher role rather than a friend role," explained Emily Wesley, a junior English major, on the blog where Green and the students have recorded their experiences. "After meeting them, I quickly learned that our relationships would not be one-sided. They easily became our friends and tour guides."

According to junior psychology major Crosby Wilson, "I have never in my life felt as warmly welcomed by complete strangers as I did the first day of class. Since then my relationships with several of the students [grew] exponentially."

In addition to interacting with local university students, the SJU group went sightseeing, undertook a rural visit sponsored by a province of the Chinese government and visited two Buddhist Temples not usually frequented by tourists as a part of their cultural immersion.

On the group's experience in China, Green commented, "We've had an exceptional opportunity to learn from Chinese students about their country while we speak English with them, but we've also had an exceptional opportunity to connect with different Chinese people as we've traveled around the country."

For more information about the trip, or to read the SJU students' blog entries, visit

--Sarah Whelehon '07 (M.A.)

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