“The way the Chinese received us is probably the closest thing to southern hospitality that I’ll ever experience.”
That is how JSU student Evan Mince describes the time he spent in China as part of the EH 399 course.
In May, Mince and nine other students from JSU’s Honors program spent 12 days in China, studying at Taizhou University in Linhai, Zhejiang.
Greg Felch, Lea Isbell, Lauren McClendon, Whitney Gaut, Lance Hicks, Kailea Jones, Josh Wise, Ben Parr, and Honors Student Board President Jansen Harmon were chosen to represent the university.
An application was available to all Honors students, and applicants had to write a 500-word essay on why they believed they should be selected to participate. Ten students were then chosen from all submissions.
The students took classes in cooking, kung fu, music, calligraphy and the Chinese language.
Honors in ChinaTaizhou is basically Linhai’s equivalent of JSU. There is a big focus on liberal arts at Taizhou, but like most universities in China, they specialize in foreign trade and business.
Taizhou and JSU share a special relationship; starting this school year, Taizhou plans to send ten students to JSU every year.
“The Taizhou students will take their first two years of basics at Taizhou, and then come over here for their last two years,” explains Parr. “That’s kind of why we went over there, as a diplomatic trip.”
Each of the JSU students was paired with a Taizhou student to serve as a translator and guide during the duration of the trip, but they all ended up forming close friendships.
“When we had no more activities for the day, all the American and Chinese students would sit together and talk and play games and just get to know each other,” McClendon reflects. “It was amazing to see how alike we all were.”
According to Gaut, “By the end of the trip, we had grown so close that leaving was a tear-filled event.”
In their classes at Taizhou, the JSU students were able to try their hand at making Chinese dumplings, doing scroll paintings, and even writing some of the Chinese characters.
“Each character has a certain number of strokes which have to be done in a certain order,” says Isbell. “The whole process of learning how to write the characters was both fascinating and beautiful.”
Wise was impressed by the demonstrations given by the Taizhou students in both the music and kung fu classes. “It was really awesome to see younger people participating and being amazing at traditional Chinese customs. It seems like the younger generations in America don’t embrace tradition the way the Chinese do,” he says.
For all 10 JSU students who participated, the trip was one to be remembered forever.
“My favorite part of the experience, though others might enthusiastically suggest the food, was writing daily about cultural differences that I noticed during our tour,” says Hicks, an English major.
“I’m very happy to have all of those memories thoroughly catalogued in my journal so that I can revisit them and remember the subtle nuances of such a once-ina-lifetime experience.”