“Confucius Institute, an Important bridge connecting China and the rest of the world” — Sidelight on 4th Annual Confucius Institute U.S. Center National Honors Gala

[Source]    people.com.cn [Time]    2019-09-25 14:04:53 

On the evening of September 14th, the 4th Annual Confucius Institute U.S. Center National Honors Gala and the Annual Outstanding Student Awards Ceremony was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. When David Fuller, the American student of Alfred University, began to play the Chinese famous song “Melodies from the Night Fisherman” with the Chinese instrument Guzheng, the audience held their breath. His fingertips fluttered as they were dancing with the melodious sound lingering in the hall, and the banquet hall was bursting into applause. It was only a year since he learned guzheng from Wu Zhongbei, a teacher of the Confucius Institute at the University of Alfred, and the participants were surprised at his outstanding performance.

An American student playing guzheng at the annual conference

American students playing guzheng at the annual conference

With the theme of “Pushing Forward: Local Initiative, Global Impact and Lifelong Community”, the gala was attended by about 200 guests from all walks of life across the United States. The gala also presented the 2019 People-to-People Award to 10 honorees.

10 American students winning the 2019 People-to-People Award

These 10 students of Confucius Institute have 10 different versions of “My Story with the Confucius Institute”.

Jaivi Chandola, a 9-year-old girl from Buffalo of New York State, began studying Chinese at the Confucius Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo at the age of five. Starting learning from the most basic figures, colors, and food, she passed the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) Level 3 at the age of 8. “Chinese learning has given me a lot of fun and new experiences.” Jaivi Chandola said that last Christmas, her Chinese teacher sent her a set of writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and inkstones. “I am learning calligraphy. My goal is to achieve proficiency in Chinese listening, speaking, reading and writing. I hope to be committed to China-US communication and cooperation in the future and make the world a better place.”

Dean Zollman, a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Kansas State University, is over 70 years old and was the head of the Department of Physics. He began to become attached to the Confucius Institute in 2017. As a physicist, he often travels around the world to attend academic conferences. After three visits to China, he began to be interested in Chinese. In the spring of 2017, when he learned that the Confucius Institute at Kansas State University had offered Chinese classes, he enrolled immediately. “Why not? Although I am retired, I can still rearrange my schedule to fit in a few classes.” Dean Zollman said that he studied Latin and German. Learning a language is not only about knowing new vocabulary, but also about embracing a new culture and way of thinking. “With the deepening of my studies, my understanding of the history and culture behind Chinese is increasing, and my own thinking is constantly diversifying.”

Kiietti Walker-Parker is a teacher and writer from the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in the Southern United States. She grew up in the rural areas of the Southern United States where the cultural environment is single and isolated. Her greatest pleasure after getting married is to travel around the world with her husband. After traveling to Europe and Asia, a bold thought was born in her mind. “I want to learn Chinese. I want to understand why it has been spread and passed on for more than 5,000 years and maintained a high degree of internal consistency.” Kiietti Walker-Parker said that, “Our world is a globe that revolves, and we are all evolving. No one person, gender, culture, or race is an island onto themselves as we are dependent on each other for knowledge, understanding, opportunity, happiness, and value. Americans can learn much from Chinese people. Different people in the world should learn from each other so that they can achieve common progress in all fields.”

Michael Briggs from College of William & Mary has nine brothers and sisters, and his younger brother Noah was adopted from China by his parents. Michael was determined to master the Chinese language and one day brought Noah back to his hometown to see his parents. After studying Chinese for two years, he planned to study business management in China after graduating from college.

Jerrad Solberg, who has suffered from cerebral palsy which affects his body movement, overcomes all kinds of difficulties and tried to learn Chinese. It was related to the visit with his 76-year-old grandmother to the Great Wall of China in 2013. “She encouraged me to travel overseas like her.” Last year, he climbed the Great Wall with strong perseverance. This year, his grandmother passed away unfortunately, but she was deeply gratified by his insistence on overseas exploration before her end. “Her lasting impact will continue with me as my China story carries on.” Solberg said.


At the annual gala, several American guests also shared their various experiences and expressed their appreciation and support for the Confucius Institute education.

“The Confucius Institute is an important bridge connecting China and the rest of the world.” Robbyn Wacker, President of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota of USA, said that China’s rapid development is changing the world. Therefore, learning Chinese history, culture and language is crucial to understanding China in the 21st century. Some simple information can be obtained through Internet, but deeper communication and understanding can only be achieved by deepening people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

“St. Cloud State University has also increased its global confidence in its close interaction with China.” Wacker said that technological progress has made the world smaller. In this global village, isolationism is not an option. We must face common challenges such as climate change, extreme poverty and food security.

Clayton Daniel Mote Jr., Director of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, once served as President of the University of Maryland. In 2004, under his leadership, the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland, the first Confucius Institute in the United States, was established, and Chinese language teaching was extended to more than 50 elementary and secondary schools in the State of Maryland.

“We must truly understand each other through people-to-people and cultural exchanges. This is the key to promoting the development of China-US relations.” Mote believed that there are many fundamental misunderstandings between the United States and China. This is a problem that must be solved by the hard work of the two peoples. “In your life, have you ever had a relationship that could be improved by separating from each other?” He said that the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland has been established for 15 years and it is thriving. This is a global education program where American students can learn more from another big country including language, culture, and music. They have benefited a lot from this.

Mote, Director of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, presenting awards to the honorees

“If we can provide opportunities for people to realize their wishes, we can empower them.” Gao Qing, Director of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, said that the stories shared by American students reflect the process of communication and learning among people of different cultural backgrounds. At present, there is a powerful force in denying multicultural values and prevent global exchange projects. “But we always believe that it is the right way to strengthen exchanges and contacts among people of all countries, rather than isolation and opposition.”

(Story by Zhang Niansheng and Zhang Mengxu, photo by Zhang Mengxu, people.com.cn, Washington D.C., September 15th)

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