USF, China partnership brings the Confucius Institute, opportunity for students

[Source]    ABC Action News [Time]    2011-03-30 11:27:39 

TAMPA - There are endless education pathways to walk at the University of South Florida, but in the heart of campus, in Cooper Hall, USF students have chosen a unique journey.

The students in Professor Eric Shepherd’s classroom are learning Mandarin Chinese and taking advantage of a partnership with Nankai University in China through The Confucius Institute.

USF's Confucius Institute is one of 300 worldwide and the first at a Florida University.

The goal is to foster closer ties with China through language and culture.

USF Junior Kevin O'Brien believes the skills will help him find a job. "More and more Americans are starting to learn Chinese and I feel like there's going to be a lot of good job opportunities," said O’Brien.

O'Brien and his classmates speak only Chinese in class and that immersion give students an edge.

"About half the funding is provided by China -- a organization called Hanban or the Confucius Institute headquarters. We also get some of the professors," said Kun Shi, Director of USF’s Confucius Institute.

Chinese professors from like Xiaomei Zu has been teaching and living in Tampa for two years. "If they learn Chinese, especially in the area of globalization, I think they have more opportunity," said Zu.

USF's Confucius Institute is partnering with local public schools, including Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Pinellas County, exposing elementary students to the language early on.

A language that's opening doors for O'Brien. "I had a great interview with a company and I just have to graduate, finish my degree and also, know Chinese to get this opportunity," he explained with a smile.

By: Carson Chambers