6/7/2018 4:08:00 PM Rio student from McArthur in Pioneers Study Abroad Program in China
Jennifer Case (center) is the first Rio student to participate in the Chinese Exchange Program. While attending Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in China, she is also helping teach 1st through 6th grade students at the Chunhui Primary School near ZUMC’s Tongxiang campus.
The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College is giving students the chance to explore more parts of the globe. As part of this effort, the university has established both student and faculty exchange programs with universities in China. This semester, Jennifer Case, a junior communications major from McArthur, is the first Rio student to participate in the program. Case is attending Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in China. She said she is excited to experience a new culture.
"I've always been interested in Chinese culture. McArthur is a very small area, so this was an opportunity for me to travel and step out of my comfort zone, especially as the first student to take part in the exchange," Case said. "I think it's important to learn more about other people from different parts of the world and share our cultures with one another. I have already made many friends and have listened to their stories of where they are from and how they have come to be in Hangzhou. I learned so much from the Chinese students we have on Rio's campus. Our International Program Assistant Olivia Li, who is from China, was helpful by taking time out of her schedule to help me learn more about the language and culture before I arrived here. I've also had the opportunity to reconnect with some friends who came to Rio to study last semester. They've been helping me adapt to the culture change."
Rio began the process to set up the exchange in 2016, working with Zhejiang University of Media and Communications, Eurasia University, Baoji University of Arts and Sciences and Xi'an Siyuan University in different areas of China. While Case is the only Rio student to participate in the program, and students from China have participated for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters. The program is also designed to include faculty exchanges between Rio and its Chinese partners. As part of this, Rio professor Vickie Crooks traveled to China to participate in a two-week exchange in the spring 2017 semester. Director of International Programs, Dr. Eric Yang, said the program allows students and faculty from both countries to share their culture and knowledge while learning to connect in a globalized world.
"We live in a time of globalization where each university is expected to connect with the world. We want to educate all of our students to be not only successful in their country and state, but around the world. The exchange programs we have here at Rio are important to our students because it gives them the chance to broaden their vision and knowledge," Yang said. "China is a large country with a large population and over five thousand years of cultural history. This program benefits everyone because it is an opportunity bring different cultures to Rio, as well as to share our culture with the world. The goal of this program is for students from both countries to receive the best education and experience possible during their time abroad. I'm excited that Jennifer is doing well. When she first applied, she was a little nervous, but she was eager to learn more about China's language and culture. I'm proud of the progress she made before she left and knowledge she's gaining as well as for being the model for future students who would like to participate in this program."
Because the semester schedule at ZUMC is different from Rio, Case left for China and began classes in the university's Chinese Language Program.
She was to stay in Hangzhou over the course of the next few months, returning home in early July. As an additional learning opportunity, Case is helping teach English to students in first through sixth grades at Chunhui Primary School near ZUMC's Tongxiang campus. Case said working with the students is a fun and unique learning experience for everyone.
"I'm so excited that I have this opportunity to work with the children at Chunhui Primary. It's already been a rewarding experience because the students are so eager to learn and be interactive about practicing English," Case said. "Studying in Hangzhou is a very different experience than Rio, and especially McArthur. It is a huge city that is always bustling with many people and things to do. Being in an area surrounded by a language that is foreign to me was a little overwhelming at first, but I've adjusted quickly, and I am grateful for the guidance of my friends, teachers, and strangers that I've met so far in my journey. This has been a great opportunity to expand my horizons and gain more knowledge about the world around me. It is amazing to get out of your comfort zone and see that there is more to the world than what is in your back yard."
Rio students who participate in the program are required to take a culture and language focused course before traveling to China. Upon their return, this course as well as the credits received in China allow the students to earn a Chinese Minor Degree from Rio. For more information on the Chinese Exchange Program or Rio's Office of International Programs, contact Eric Yang at 740-245-7115.