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Visiting professor provides cross-cultural experience


2014-08-20

Eight students at MCLA this summer had an opportunity to explore the long tradition of Chinese literature without ever leaving the Berkshires, as visiting professor Dr. Yu Wang of Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE) in Shanghai, China, taught "Chinese and World Literature."

Wang's visiting professorship was part of an ongoing partnership between MCLA and SUIBE to provide cross-cultural educational experiences.

The focus of the course was an exchange of ideas from different cultural perspectives. Students studied classic Chinese poetry, novels and drama, and made examined important Chinese philosophical writings.

"I decided to teach this course to MCLA students because I sincerely wished it could become an interesting window to help them see the rich literary and cultural heritage in China, and, most importantly, link it to the world literature and today's broad multi-cultural society," Wang said.

Throughout the course, Wang enjoyed many discussions with her students, which served to introduce them to SUIBE and China.

"Even during class breaks, there were always a few students coming closer to me to ask more about various interesting aspects of Chinese culture, including cuisine, historical sites, etc.," Wang said. "When I asked them to do comparative studies between my country's literary works and other western countries' literary works, they easily came to realize their differences and similarities in the two cultures."

Likewise, Wang found similarities and differences between her students in China and at MCLA.

"These MCLA students are as sweet, creative and hard-working as my SUIBE students, but they are more courageous to express their own ideas in class and are more independent learners compared to Chinese students," she explained.

"It is important," Wang continued, "for MCLA students to know various aspects about a new China and the students and faculty at SUIBE. Better acquaintance with these will help them easily facilitate their studies in China and make friends with Chinese students, meanwhile their inter-cultural awareness is enhanced, which can make them better international citizens in the future."

While she enjoyed all of her students, Wang was particularly impressed by the dedication of Jennifer Jean Baptiste '14 of Revere, Mass., who drove from the Boston area to participate in the course. She left at 2 p.m. for the 6 to 9:15 p.m. class, and did not arrive back home until 1 a.m.

Despite Wang's offer to accommodate her through online class work and other alternatives, Baptiste insisted, "Nothing is as good as coming to class and getting the material face-to-face. If Professor Wang can travel 7,241 miles from Shanghai to come to MCLA, then 300 miles round trip for me is a very insignificant challenge for attending the class."

Wang hopes there will be more exchanges between MCLA and SUIBE, for both students and faculty.

"The two-dimensional exchanges will contribute a lot not only to the personal development of students and teachers involved, but also to the global cross-cultural education, which I firmly believe MCLA will set an excellent example to other nearby universities."