MAILED: Nov. 15, 2000
Each year since 1989, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claires Center for International Education has hosted two faculty members from Jinan University in Guangzhou, China. UW-Eau Claire faculty members periodically have spent up to a semester at the university, as well.
Huifen Yu, who teaches Chinese Culture and Civilization, and Dr. Yiping Zeng, who teaches beginning and intermediate Chinese language courses, are spending the 2000-01 academic year at UW-Eau Claire.
It really internationalizes our curriculum to have professors from other parts of the world, Dr. Karl Markgraf, director of the Center for International Education, said. The authenticity level is genuine. Its really valuable in that respect. We treasure this (exchange).
Yu and Zeng spoke of the differences between Eau Claire, their hometown in China and the two universities.
In Eau Claire, I see a lot of trees, white clouds and blue sky, Zeng said. Its like a fairy tale. The people and nature live harmoniously.
Yu was amazed that from inside our house we can see squirrels and deer. We cant imagine that at home in the city of more than 6 million people.
Zeng was impressed with the widespread use of modern educational technology (at UW-Eau Claire). At JNU, most of the teachers use a PC to work, but not all the classrooms are installed with multimedia instruments.
Yu said she appreciates the quality of the librarys service and the support of the universitys Computing and Networking Services, Media Development Center and the Center for Instructional Technology and Innovation.
Yu also said she was impressed that Americans do their own chores or make things from scratch even though they can hire someone or buy the finished product in the store.
People can buy all the do-it-yourself things from painting the house to cooking food which encourages people to use their own hands and enjoy their lives, and, what is more, to cultivate the spirit of self-reliance, Yu said.
Despite leaving behind in China a spouse and a child each, Yu and Zeng are happy in Eau Claire and have plans to sit in on some classes, research, travel and volunteer in the community.
The American people are very friendly and always ready to help us, Yu said. I really appreciate it.
UW-Eau Claire faculty who have visited Jinan University also speak positively about their time in China.
In terms of my experience there, it was very, very rewarding, both professionally and personally, said Maria DaCosta, professor of economics who spent the fall 1991 and spring 1993 semesters in China and who also was a guest speaker at a conference in June 1996.
Dan Norstedt, associate professor of library science, spent the fall 1997 semester at Jinan University and then gave four lectures there to Chinese librarians in late spring 2000.
I just feel comfortable with the Chinese, Norstedt said. They are rather relaxed and gracious.
DaCosta and Norstedt maintain an interest in China and the Chinese culture and expect to return to the region. They think their experiences at Jinan University have benefited their current professional careers.
I have a broader view of teaching styles, said DaCosta whose current focus in economics is directed more toward Chinas economic reform and Pacific Asia development. I try to incorporate different styles of teaching now.
Im able to interact with Asian foreign students more effectively than I did before, Norstedt said of his work in UW-Eau Claires library.
Just as Yu and Zeng found differences between their Chinese culture and that of Americans at UW-Eau Claire, DaCosta and Norstedt also noticed differences.
Chinese students are used to looking up to the teacher, DaCosta said. Its a much more formal relationship. They never question except for clarification and they never challenge. In class they are more subdued. They tend to work more in groups. The style of learning is different. Memorization is much more common.
Professionally, it was a great challenge to teach Chinese students. They didnt know anything about me, and I didnt know anything about them. It was very rewarding. We grew together. They kind of learned to appreciate what the West had to offer, and I learned to appreciate what the Chinese culture had to offer.
Norstedt agreed and added that in most cases there are no review sessions in classes. Even though he thought it may have been useful at times, the class kept moving. Its also a convention that classes go the entire period, he said, so even if Id run out of things to say 10 minutes before the four-hour class was over, I still had to find something to say.
Norstedt also noted that the Jinan University faculty members he encountered seemed to have a lot of talents outside their discipline, talents such as dancing, singing or calligraphy. Almost everyone has some sort of talent that is really polished. I thought that was interesting, Norstedt said.
During her 1991 visit to China DaCosta conquered several firsts. I was the first Western economist and first female visiting professor to teach in the College of Economics. In fact, they gave me a tie as a gift because they didnt know what to give me, DaCosta said. She also was the first person to use the colleges overhead projector.
Both professors thought their time in China was educational and enjoyable, and they are pleased they participated in the program. Overall, it was an extremely positive experience, DaCosta said. I think it changed my life.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Nov. 15, 2000