Home >> Cultural Exchange

US students wax lyrical about China in book

Updated: 2023-10-14 11:38 ( China Daily )
Share - WeChat

CHICAGO — Years after returning from China, where he and his parents lived for four years, Hugh Shepard still remembers his life in Beijing vividly.

On his first Chinese language test at Yew Chung International School in Beijing, he received a score of 30 percent, but Shepard was determined to do better.

"I studied Chinese every day, and got a score of 87 percent on the next test. After living in Beijing for a year, I became comfortable using Chinese to buy tickets, order food, and I became more familiar with both the city of Beijing and my school," he says.

Shepard's experience in China is included in West Meets East: 100 Essays from University Students in the United States, a book that contains the experiences of students studying Chinese and which was published by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press and Phoenix Tree Publishing Inc.

Shepard has continued to study Chinese since his return to the United States, and is now a freshman at the University of Chicago.

The Windy City's famously cold weather reminds him of his ice festival experience in Harbin, capital of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, and of the taxi driver he met there. "Harbin and Chicago have much in common. Both cities have good universities, and both have freezing winters. Like the taxi driver we met in Harbin, many Chicagoans are very proud of their hometown."

Valeria Gogunska, a student at the University of Illinois Chicago, has never been to China but after years of studying the language, she has learned about one important Chinese custom, social respect.

"I find that respect in China is very distinctive. In Chinese society, respecting one's elders is very important. I believe that this custom can greatly improve social relations," Gogunska says.

"The respect advocated by Chinese society not only helps strengthen family relations, but also helps maintain harmonious and happy social relationships. Respect is the cornerstone of China's maintenance of a harmonious society for thousands of years."

Gogunska's take on China was also included in the bilingual book, which is divided into eight sections, including My Chinese Stories, Journeys of Learning Chinese, Deep Friendships, Cultural Exchange, and Current Affairs Commentary.

The 100 essays were carefully selected from 300 student essays from 60 universities, says Gu Licheng, the book's chief editor and a professor at Northwestern University.

Despite their differences, the essays share a common thread — they all show the students' passion for the Chinese language and interest in China, Gu says, adding that they could become "nongovernmental ambassadors to maintain the friendship between China and the US, to enhance the mutual understanding between the Chinese and American people".

In a letter to readers, former Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro recalls his visit to China. "Highlights for me included climbing the Great Wall with our students, touring the imperial palace together, and visiting the magnificent Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an."

"Our collective future depends on the successful nurturing of today's young people into truly globally minded leaders," he stresses.

Shepard has his own thoughts. "Despite the many cultural, economic, and political differences between the US and China, the two countries have much in common," he says.

"If we study foreign languages, and learn more about different cultures, we can broaden our perspectives, and discover the interesting characteristics of different places. And this knowledge and experience will contribute to improving international relations."


Hot words
Most Popular