“Going to China was fantastic. XieXie, China!”

[Source]    The Confucius Institute at the University of Newcastle [Time]    2012-05-21 10:55:55 

Fifteen students from the University of Newcastle recently had an opportunity to experience China first-hand as part of a 10-day cultural immersion tour during April 2012.

Organised and led by the Confucius Institute at the University of Newcastle the tour visited Shanghai, Suzhou, Kunming, Dali and Lijiang. Students were dazzled by the cosmopolitan flair of Shanghai, amazed by the classical Chinese architecture in Suzhou, and marvelled at the picture-perfect Yulong Snow Mountain and ancient towns in the ethnically diverse southwest region of China. They tasted authentic Chinese food along the way, visited gardens and museums, wanderedin buzzing night markets and shopping streets, and stepped out their comfort zone to chat in Chinese with friendly locals.

However, what made the trip truly special and unforgettable was visiting East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai and Yunnan University of Finance and Economics in Kunming. The students from Newcastle had the opportunity to listen to lectures given by Chinese professors and meet and talk with Chinese university students on several occasions. All of the Chinese students were warm, welcoming and very generous in sharing stories about their study, their families and campus life. So impressed by these experiences, some of the Newcastle students are now considering further study in China.

For some, the contrast between traditional Chinese culture and the modern city life, between the reality and the western stereotype was fascinating and thought-provoking. Kylie, an art student from the University of Newcastletook thousands of photos during the tour and is planning an exhibition to showcase her ‘first time’ impression of China.

Directly experiencing the cultural differences between Australian and Chinese ways of thinking and doing things provided the Newcastle students with many valuable insights. One student, who hosts a 17-year-old Chinese student in her own home in Newcastle, said the tour gave her a greater appreciation and a muchbetterunderstanding of the ‘adjustments’ everyone has to make to immerse themselves in another culture.

Rhys Palmer, Director of the Confucius Institute, said this inaugural Southern China Cultural Tour was a huge success. “The students’ exposure to museums and traditional gardens was enriching for them, but it was the one-on-one exchanges and interactions with the Chinese students and the Chinese people they met along the way that made it really magical. One student described the tour to me as ‘life changing’ – that to me is a success.”

Students and Shanghai-based alumni from the University of Newcastle, staff from East China University of Finance and Economics, John and Diana Dai from Tertiary Educational International (front row), and Rhys Palmer, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Newcastle, Australia (centre front row)

Dumpling eating competition with Chinese university students (Photo: Rodney)