Who Are We Panel, Portal to Get to Know Our Chinese Students Better…

By Jadison Wang

On May 9th, a presentation called “Who Are We” took place in the Technology Center. This is a series put on by Green River Community College’s  Teaching and Learning Center. This  quarter the presentation featured Chinese students. Chinese students make up  1/3 of the total international student population at GRCC. It was a valuable opportunity to have a group of 5 current students from mainland China as representatives to share their stories with the faculty and staff that attended. One of our I.P. advisers Kirsten Weber hosted this event. An interesting animation video, called Introduction to China in 10 Minutes was played at the beginning to show Chinese history, cultures and customs, giving the audience an idea of what life of the largest population in the world is all about.

Each of the presenting students shared a little bit about their background and why they chose GRCC. I was personally very honored to be one of them involved in this special event. As all of us hail from different provinces of  China, ranging from the very north down to the very bottom south coastline, it certainly helped to show the distinct diversity of the Chinese students.

Lynn born in Changchun, raised in the cosmopolitan city Shanghai
Lynn born in Changchun, raised in the cosmopolitan city Shanghai

First up was Lynn who has recently been admitted to UC Berkeley. She shared that Shanghai is a competitive city where you are expected to speak Shanghainese or else encounter discrimination from the locals.  Lynn talked about the Chinese students’ classroom participation phenomenon. She said that in China, teachers are the sole speakers during class time. Students, unfortunately, are not encouraged to share their opinions, let alone oppose teachers’ statements. With this  influence, students naturally grow an inner fear of teachers. As “face” is an essential issue in China, being emphasized in this talk, students in China are afraid of making mistakes answering a question in class, they would feel refrained to participate in class and rather remain an attentive listener. Therefore, Chinese students tend to behave themselves in a similar way even in American classrooms.

Me from Shantou of Guangdong province, one of the well-known homes to overseas Chinese.
Me from Shantou of Guangdong province, one of the well-known homes to overseas Chinese.

My name is Jadison, and I was there to talk  about making American friends.  I moved from city to city and then studied in Singapore for nearly 5 years from the age of 13.  I was lucky to have met people from all around the world. I believe many of the Chinese have the same experience as I did in that when I first came to study at GRCC, I was eager to make American friends yet had no clue how to begin. I was fortunate to go on the GRCC study abroad to Australia and New Zealand program last quarter with a class of 29 other American friends.  I didn’t expect to have become a family with all my classmates.  One thing I realized was, Americans wonder why we Chinese students tend to usually stay in our own groups while we have the same question for them. I suggest taking the initiative to get to know more about each other. From my knowledge, American friends are very interested in learning about Chinese cultures and customs.   I took them to Chinese restaurant on Lunar New Year’s Eve and the Lantern Festival in Auckland. It was a perfect chance to clarify some misperceptions.

Sara from northeast China, Changchun of Jilin Province(bordered with North Korea).
Sara from northeast China, Changchun of Jilin Province(bordered with North Korea).

Sara shared the importance of academic grades to Chinese students. Back in China, an educational system of rote-learning is designed for Chinese students. Grades and results are stressed over the achievement of actually learning. The general goal of the students is to go to a dream school, because of the competitiveness in China, they study hard and prepare themselves for tests and exams.  Often times the teachers at GRCC will find Chinese students bargaining over the improvement of grades. This is due to how eager they are to have good transcripts for university applications, while the pursuit of knowledge should have been an equally fundamental purpose.

Yingying from the rising international port, Shenzhen of Guangdong, bordered with Hong Kong
Yingying from the rising international port, Shenzhen of Guangdong, bordered with Hong Kong

Yingying talked about “Saving ‘face’ and peer pressure”. “Face” is a fundamental concept in China yet elusive to foreigners. Making somebody lose face literally means embarrassment, and Chinese people survive with “face” based on the reputation and achievement. Yingying shared her experience about her transfer from New York to GRCC, she mentioned that she was teased because of her Chinese accent when she first came to study in US, and how she has worked hard and pushed herself from losing “face” by making remarkable progress on her academic performance to deal with peer pressure.

Kevin from Chongqing, one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of inland China, and a city of pretty girls everywhere
Kevin from Chongqing, one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of inland China, and a city of pretty girls everywhere

Kevin, who aspires to become as eloquent as a native speakers one day, shared about challenges faced during his study at GRCC. He mentioned that language barrier has been a major issue in his life in US.  Chinese is an entirely different structured language compared to English, which also has been a problem for him while trying to make American friends. Kevin explained a good basic example of the difference between English and  when a Chinese person is asked a question in English, “you don’t have a pen?”, he/she would answer yes (when meant no) due to the Chinese logic. That is how different they are and how easily misunderstanding is caused.

The presentation ended with a Q&A session for faculty and staff .  Overall, they were pleased to learn more about the Chinese students. A request has been made to have an encore presentation for the IESL faculty on May 30th.

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