The University of Arizona Students' "Journey to the East" - UA students’ excitement about their trip to China

September 26, 2015

The University of Arizona Students' "Journey to the East"
- UA students’ excitement about their trip to China

 Jing Ouyang and Yi Chen

Imagine a group of American students excitedly telling a non-Chinese audience that Chinese architecture is amazing, Chinese culture is very broad, and Chinese people are very friendly… This is not an imaginery scene; it happened precisely at the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) during its recent Fourth Annual Chinese Culture Festival. On September 25th, four UA Department of East Asian Studies students presented impressions of their trip to China in the summer of 2015 to honored guests, focusing on their "Journey to the East". CIUA co-director Professor Chen Zhao, Chinese Director Prof. Zhao Wei, and East Asian Studies Department associate professor Wenhao Diao, associate professor David Pietz and Instructor Takashi Miura also attended the gathering.

After a brief introduction by CIUA project coordinator Ms. Yi Chen, the project’s lead teacher, associate professor of East Asian Studies Wenhao Diao briefly introduced the exchange learning program, "Arizona in Shanghai". She said China is the fifth most popular study aboard destination among American college students and "Arizona in Shanghai" is the University of Arizona’s first study abroad project in mainland China. In the summer of 2015a total of 11 UA students went to China as part of this program, seven of whom participated in the US Southwest Regional Chinese Bridge Competition and received CIUA scholarships to defray the expenses of their trip to China.  Some of these students have been studying Chinese for three or four years while some only had a single semester Chinese lessons under their belt, but they all have a keen interest in China and an earnest yearning to learn. Participating in an intensive five-week language and cultural immersion program at East China Normal University in Shanghai was an unforgettable life changing experience.

First, Stephanie Crawford, dressed in a lovely red Chinese cheongsam (Qi2 pao2) played a self-made video of her China trip.  This interesting show won warm applause from the audience. Subsequently, Glenn Emerson Maxwell who wore a black Chinese jacket with a traditional dragon embroidery talked about "cultural and linguistic diversity," which is how he summed up his China trip. He stated three reasons to go to China: the country’s rapid economic development, the fact that Chinese culture is quite different from American culture, and, finally, that today Chinese people are found all around the world.Glenn determined to learn more about China through learning its principal language. Next, wonderful photography by Donte Jeter depicted China’s beautiful landscapes and cultures including the cities and provinces of Xi'an, Shanghai, Beijing, Yunnan, Fujian, Hangzhou, Wenzhou, and Wuzhen; every place left its memories. Finally, David Wayne Malboeuf presented a talk entitled "Fantastic New World" in which he discussed the culture shock he experienced in China. He mentioned that the trip to China broke his previous stereotypes of Chinese prejudices;  the kind-hearted enthusiasm of Chinese people made him feel at home. In Wenzhou, he spent time with an ordinary Chinese family, playing and eating with them, learning the ins and outs of Chinese people's daily lives. Every speaker sincerely thanked the Confucius Institute and UA’s Study Abroad program for the financial support that gave them the opportunity to experience China up-close and personal.

After their reports, the audience interacted closely with the presenters based on the topics and reports which interested them. Many questions were asked, including: Which is your favorite Chinese city? What was the biggest difficulty in your trip to China? What were the most impressive things? How did you successfully communicate with Chinese people? Where are you going on your next trip to China? Are there any place that you’d like to particularly recommend? Frequent interaction and a lively atmosphere made this series of reports a most rewarding forum about China.

CIUA co-director Professor Chen Zhao provided concluding comments in which she thanked the students for their excellent reports and announced that CIUA will continue to support UA students in their quest to go to China to learn Chinese language and experience its rich diversity of cultures.

The student reports also attracted media attention, including that of Arizona Public Media whose news anchor and reporter, Mr. Anthony Perkins, interviewed presenters on site. Perkins lived and worked in China for four years, specifically reporting on the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 for CCTV. He expressed the hope that through presentations by these students, more people in Tucson will develop a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of China.

For  more information of “Arizona in Shanghai” program, please visit: