Find the Familiar in the Foreign
by Jeff Wang
We often prepare our students for so-called culture shock, but in a certain sense, we are also training them to spot and perhaps focus too much on the differences. Even if great distances separate societies, we’re connected in a globalized age and by citizens who increasingly share similar aspirations for a better future.
How do we, as educators, help students have experiences that celebrate their shared thinking and experiences, particularly during very short study trips?
Two factors compel students to notice the differences versus things that are familiar.
One comes from the brevity of most exchange visits. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, the majority of whom spent years in American schools and universities, most American students in China are there for a relatively short time, say ten days to a couple of weeks; some may stay for a semester.
Another factor often comes from the hosts and the program designers’ kind-hearted but misdirected effort to showcase local traditions and culture.
What’s the remedy then? One obvious possibility is to travel more frequently and make each stay longer than the last. That will cost more and require a greater commitment from teachers, administrators, students, and parents alike. While encouraging more American students to spend more time in China is absolutely worthy of investment, we can do more to make existing exchange trips to China more meaningful.
Read the full article at http://asiasociety.org/education/chinese-language-initiatives/find-familiar-foreign