Eastern Mennonite University students on a semester-long cross-cultural to China this fall were introduced to the county’s social, political and environmental challenges and 4,000-year history, but also to university students and homestay host families. Cross-cultural study has been a part of EMU's core curriculum for over 30 years. (Courtesy photos)

On cross-cultural to vast China, students make personal connections

Students on the fall-cross-cultural, led by Professor Mary Sprunger and Myrrl Byler, experienced the vastness and diversity of China, from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Buddhist temples and the Great Wall to villages, rice fields and sacred mountains. 

Students on the Great Wall.

While the semester of travel was an experiential introduction to the county’s social, political and environmental challenges and 4,000-year history, it also provided connection to its people, with the group of 10 students visiting with Chinese Christians and university students, as well as staying with host families.

EMU faculty have introduced students to cultural learning through educational travel in more than 80 locations around the globe over the last 30 years. Graduates call the experiences “life-changing,” and say they provide a foundation for global living, leading and serving. Through studying in China, EMU students gained insights into the country that, with the world’s largest population, will become even more globally significant in coming decades.

The students shared photos and stories of their experiences during a December campus worship service, and wrote blog posts throughout the semester.

The group was based in Nanchong, a “small provincial city” of “only about 1.3 million,” Brandi Nelson wrote. There they were able to observe urban and rural life away from Western influence and the modernization in larger cities. That location “gave us a more realistic view of China,” she wrote.

When students met their host families in Nanchong, Ana Cahill wrote, “I was terrified, but I was also hopeful. … I silently prayed to be assigned to a family who knew English.” They didn’t – but Cahill soon found them to be “wonderful” and “loving.”

 

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