By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations at JSU
This summer a group of eight honors students and two instructors from Jacksonville State University had the opportunity to travel to Taizhou University (TU) in Linhai City, China (about 5 hours south of Shanghai) for an unforgettable study tour.
The honors students selected for the trip were: Noah Trudeau, Lyndsey Bonner, Trent Ford, Whitney Gaut, Gregory Felch, Lea Isbell, Kayla Falvo, and Zane Alexander.
For three of the students, this was their second experience in China, as they had been a part of the study tour that went in May 2012. Dr. Teresa Reed, Professor of English, and Dr. Aaron Garrett, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, are both Honors Board members and were selected to lead the study tour.
Before leaving for China, the students met in early June as a class and were required to read articles by Alain de Botton on travel literature and a book by Polly Evans called Fried Eggs with Chopsticks.
After a total of 16 hours en route to China, the students arrived at Taizhou University, which is relatively the size of JSU, but situated in a city of about six million.
With lessons about Chinese music, literature, and language in addition to Kongfu and TaiChi sessions, the group’s schedule was packed. After a day full of Chinese activities and experiences, the students would often go out around town at night to eat, shop, or explore.
One evening, some Chinese students introduced the JSU group to KTV, which is basically a large karaoke bar. They enjoyed this dining experience so much that they returned twice during their stay at Taizhou.
Gregory Felch, a senior art major, found the KTV to be his favorite experience of this trip.
Lea Isbell, a junior at JSU, explains she is considering working towards certification to teach English as a second language and returning to TU to teach.
In fact, a couple of the JSU students returned to America with an interest to possibly return to TU to teach English.
During their time at TU, the JSU students and instructors attended the graduation performance of the Senior Performing Arts students, which had been postponed just so that the JSU guests could be a part of it, despite the fact that this placed the performance in the middle of the Taizhou students’ final exam week. So, a school of about 17,000 students delayed the biggest night of their year for their 10 JSU guests.
“This was hard to believe; we felt like rock stars,” said Dr. Reed. “This is just another example of how gracious the Chinese people and specifically the faculty, staff, and students at Taizhou are.”
“I can’t begin to explain in so few words how much I loved this trip,” said business major Noah J. Trudeau. “JSU is beyond lucky to be able to have such a friendship with Taizhou University and I hope many more students get a chance to have this experience.”
Dr. Garrett, like everyone else on the trip, said, “The best thing about the trip, hands down and by far, was the people. All of the people we met were amazing! The Taizhou students and faculty and administrators were so gracious and giving of their time and assistance…The goodbyes on the last day were tearful for pretty much everyone.”
This cultural exchange does not stop with JSU’s trip to China, but is a two-way relationship with TU. JSU recently welcomed a group of two Taizhou teachers and 15 students for their own study tour in America.
From the moment the Chinese students landed in America, their days were scheduled to give them an idea of what it would be like to be a JSU student.
A special performance by K.B. Solomon, a trip to see the JSU Storybook Theater performance of “Snow White,” Zumba lessons, a tour of the new film studio in Jacksonville and shopping excursions were among the various activities planned for the visiting students.
As the JSU students were thoroughly impressed with the kindness of everyone from TU, so were the Chinese students impressed with the southern hospitality they met with in Jacksonville.
One TU student, a biology major who hopes to become a journalist, was greatly impressed with the JSU stadium, indoor basketball coliseum, and the apples she tried while on campus.
Not only was the trip an enhancing and enjoyable experience for the students from TU, but the TU instructors also greatly relished their time at JSU.
Wa Lan, an instructor from TU on his second trip to JSU, enjoyed their study tour as much as the students and felt that he will be leaving with many more friends this time. He feels that his students were able to greatly learn about America and what it is like living in the American culture.
For more about the JSU Honors Program, click here.
Photo: JSU and Taizhou students in China (Dr. Teresa Reed/JSU Honors Program)
This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News.