The “East Meets West: Chinese Students at Bucknell and Bucknell Students in China” panel, held on March 2 in the Willard Smith Library, opened with discussions that touched on the statistics of students who study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education, 31.2 percent of international students studying abroad in the United States during the 2014-2015 academic year are originally from China.
Hosted by the China Institute at the University, the panel was constructed to promote China as a location to study abroad and to increase students’ understanding of the importance of Chinese culture in the global economy and in global politics. The panel consisted of four students, two of whom studied abroad in China–Jon Davis ’16 and Emily Meringolo ’16–and two of whom are studying at the University–Ziwei Chen ’19 and Chen Liu ’18.
Associate Professor of Political Science & International Relations Zhiqun Zhu said that the China Institute is committed to promoting teaching and learning about China here at the University.
“We hope that events like this will help generate more interest in China among Bucknell students and more students will study and travel to China to directly experience the great transformations going on there,” Zhu said.
The panelists reflected on the high points of their encounters abroad, which included building new friendships, navigating unfamiliar courses, experiencing a Chinese wedding, and gaining a sense of belonging and pride in respect to their own cultures. They also discussed some low points of their experiences, such as language barriers and the conscious process of trying not to regress into American culture while in China, and vice versa.
Chen and Liu spoke about difficulties adapting to different cultural norms and cultivating relationships with other students they met at the University. Chen said that one difference between Chinese culture and American culture is that the Chinese do not have to consciously reach out to others; though students treasure individuality more in the United States, spending all of one’s time with friends is considered a norm in China.
Chen recommended that students be open to new interpretations of the same behavior, suggesting that an individual is not aware of his or her own culture until it comes into conflict with another.
“Studying abroad in general is a very enriching experience for college students, and studying in China now is particularly exciting because of the tremendous changes taking place there now,” Zhu said.