The Global Union began hosting the Discover China program on Feb. 15 to educate non-Chinese speakers and students who have no direct experience with the Chinese culture about the country itself.
Angel Oi Yee Cheng, Global Union graduate assistant, said there are two main reasons for this program.
“We have so many international students coming from different countries, but it’s that we don’t integrate a lot,” Cheng said. “So this is the first try of having such a five-part series.”
She said the second reason is because Chinese students comprise a major part of the international student body, and the Global Union believes that China will play an important role in the future — politically and economically — due to its positions as a rising power on the global stage.
Students in the program will attend five events that emphasize history, language, business and economy in Chinese culture.
These events are followed by a cuisine night where students will sit down and have a meal together to discuss what went on in the presentations earlier in the event. After attending all five sessions, students will receive a certificate of completion.
“Our goal is to use the certificate to prove that they have branched out of their comfort zone and learned the other cultures,” Cheng said.
Another goal is to build friendships between the Chinese student mentors and the students in the program.
Cheng hopes that this program will help create a bridge for the students — whether they be on campus or off traveling in the future — to foster better relationships.
Morgan Thomas, ’16, said she feels that Chinese culture is interesting because of how they celebrate good fortune and the new year differently than American culture.
She says that while American culture has turned it into a “drinking holiday”, the Chinese New Year focuses on giving good fortune to friends and family members.
One of the past events was the lantern festival where students built their own lantern and talked about their resolutions and what they wished for in the new year.
“There was a bunch of different people (who) came to this event,” Stephanie Panayiotou, ‘16, said. “When we were going around and saying what our resolutions were, and the things that we wrote on our lanterns, they were all similar themes of happiness and joy and health to your friends and your family, so I think that really brought everybody together.”
Events such as this one got students who attended to think more in-depth about this culture, as well as their own.
“I think just thinking about the culture makes you feel appreciative of what you have,” Lama Nassar, ’16, said.
“You don’t really think about good health every day, or mindfulness or the success that you have. So thinking about your wishes for next year, it might be stuff that you already have. It just reminds you of being appreciative of it.”
Cheng says she thinks the most interesting part of the five event series is 10-minute simulation of being in China, followed by a debriefing discussing the purpose of creating that environment.
“When the non-Chinese students came in, we asked the Chinese mentors to speak in Mandarin totally to have them feel like they are in China, like they are landing in China at the airport,” she said.
The Global Union is working toward using this program as a first trial for other future training programs for the Lehigh community.
At the end of March, a Discover Islam series will be held, particularly as the misconception of Islamic faith is pervasive in the news, Cheng said.
This program allows students to become more open-minded about cultures that are different than their own, all the while being able to take them out of their comfort zone to create better understanding.
“We would like to have them uncomfortable,” Cheng said, “because once we feel uncomfortable, we grow.”