Greensboro College Goes to China- Part Two

 (The welcoming ceremony; photo taken by Dr. Plaisance. Note: More photos can be found at the end of this article.)
               Remember when, in September, four members of the Greensboro College community took off abroad? Dr. Lawrence Czarda (the president of Greensboro College), Dr. Paul Leslie (our Vice President of Academic Affairs), Ms. Cathryn Bennet (our Director of International Programs) and Dr. Michelle Plaisance (the Director of TESOL) spent ten days in China in an attempt to build partnerships with Chinese universities in order to bring more exchange students to Greensboro College. Now, our world travelers have returned!
In all aspects, the trip seems to have been deemed a total success. In the words of Dr. Plaisance, the trip “was amazing – it far exceeded my expectations.” The group visited several universities (Kushan Campus, Central China Normal University, Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences, Beijing Normal University, and University of International Business and Economics) and several government officials- at both local and national levels. Through these many visits, the agreement with Ambow Educational Group to bring Chinese exchange students to Greensboro College was solidified. Ambow has pledged to send anywhere between 30 and 50 exchange students within the next academic year. Although, Dr. Plaisance warns “This may be tough, realistically, as there are a lot of logistical details to work out- like visas, housing, transfer details, etc-.” Nevertheless, Dr. Plaisance affirms, “I think it is very safe to say that next academic year we will all need to at least learn how to say hello in Mandarin!”
When not working to solidify the exchange deal, China also held many exciting new cultural experiences for the group. When visiting the cities, particularly Shanghai, our faculty was amazed at just how big everything was. Shanghai alone has a population four times that of New York City. On the shocking size of China, Dr. Plaisance states “When I think of large places, like Alaska, I think of large areas of unpopulated land. This is just not the case in China. People are everywhere and they are energized- lots of activity, noise, energy, and movement.” Another of the most memorable sights was in the city of Beijing, where they got to visit Tiananmen Square. On the experience, Dr. Plaisance reports “Standing in Tiananmen Square, the seat of the Chinese government, was surreal.  We were really lucky that the air was very clear in Beijing the two days we were there, so it made exploring the city a lot of fun.”
“In truth, we worked so hard, there was very little time for sightseeing,” admits Dr. Plaisance. Yet, some of the most interesting cultural experiences seemed to happen while they were working, because they all involved the people they were working with. Dr. Plaisance describes the people of China as proud of their country and gracious hosts, saying “Everyone was very concerned with our comfort and they wanted to be sure we had a great time. I think this stems from the pride that Chinese people have in their country. They really wanted us to see the best of the best.” This pride extended all the way to the cuisine, whose praises our world travelers now sing. “Each and every dish was artistically prepared and presented to us in beautiful ways,” Dr. Plaisance adds. As much of the actual business was done over meals, Dr. Plaisance describes that as a “major part” of the trip for her, mentioning that “Many friendships were formed over food and drink.”
Unsurprisingly though, many memories were made during the little bit of leisure time available. When asked about her favorite memory of the trip, Dr. Plaisance answers that it was “watching our President sing Karaoke. Dr. Czarda was under a lot of pressure to be a good guest and to try and participate in everything. Karaoke is a favorite activity in China- so we were all compelled to participate. He’s a super star- next contestant on The Voice!”
Overall, the trip served as an exciting opportunity to bridge two cultures and set up a long standing connection through the upcoming exchange. If all goes well, the GC community will soon have a few new members, who can hopefully teach us all more about the world beyond Greensboro. So, start brushing up on your Mandarin for next year’s upcoming guests!
And somebody: sign Dr. Czarda up for The Voice!
This article was written by Kinsley Prendergast.
 (A Chinese city; photo taken by Dr. Plaisance.)
 (The welcoming ceremony; photo taken by Dr. Plaisance.)
 (A ceremonial picture; photo taken by Dr. Plaisance.)

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