Chinese students enjoy MCLA culture


While many of MCLA's students opt to spend semesters abroad or take travel courses that include study overseas, others on campus are learning about China this year from 10 exchange students from Hebei University and Shanghai University of Business and Economics.

Experiencing different education systems, said Nuo Yang - or "Neil" as he is known on campus - is providing him with a deeper understanding of both China and the United States.

Neil chalks up any disparities - such as Chinese students' use of umbrellas when it rains and their habit of going to bed early - to the cultures in which they were raised. "I am happy to see and experience the differences between us," he said.

"MCLA students are warm people, full of enthusiasm," said Junjing "Lareina" Zhang, of Shanghai University. "They are more open or full of passion than I am, and most of them have part-time jobs, which I do not have in China. And usually they are more willing to participate in events on or off campus."

Perhaps the biggest distinction between Hebei University and MCLA, said Chunyu "Judy" Leng, is that MCLA students talk quite a bit in class.

"Basically, they can speak whenever they want to. The atmosphere is much more relaxed than in China, where the only thing we should do in class is listen to the teacher and take notes," Judy said. "So, there is more freedom in class here. American education respects everyone's opinions and gives us opportunities to feel free to express ourselves."

In addition to serving as the treasurer of the Asian and American Union, Qian "Olivia" Guo - of Shanghai University - is taking six courses this semester, including four in accounting, a math class and an introduction to psychology.

MCLA's smaller classes, she said, allow professors to interact more with their students.

"There also are more assignments here," Lareina added. "In China, we just learn what the teacher mentions. The focus is mainly on the textbooks, with less practical application in real society, and we seldom have interaction."

At Hebei University, Neil said, his history class focused on memorizing details of specific events in history - such as who, when and where. "History class here focuses more on discussion and the things behind the details," he explained. "Homework here includes essays, which focus on comprehension."

Judy is considering attending graduate school in the U.S. "After one year here, my English will be far better than if I studied it in China. English is an international language. No matter what occupation I do in the future, mastering English is crucial."

In addition to improving their English, the experience also allows these students to experience new things.

"For instance, we do not have parties in China, so we tried that here," said Lareina, "And, there are more activities here, such as zip-lining and skiing. It's a great experience. And, because we're far away from home, we're becoming more independent."

"The best thing about being at MCLA is the amazing community - and the beautiful views," said Olivia. "I'm blessed to have a lot of friends here. They are all different in the colors of their skin, in the culture and family backgrounds, but one thing in common is they are nice people. They play hard and study hard. I love this about them."