Freeman Scholars, Shanghai and International Education.
August 26-September 2, 2016
My ﬁrst trip as Interim Chancellor couldn’t have been more memorable: escorting six Freeman Scholars to East China Normal University in Shanghai for their semester of study abroad and meeting potential partners to enhance Kapi‘olani Community College’s international education opportunities for students and faculty.
Six students from three of the UH community colleges were selected for the program and spent the summer learning Chinese in preparation for their semester in China: Angela Lau (Kapi‘olani CC), Isaac Timmons (Hawai‘i CC), Daniel Ehrke (Honolulu CC), Gabriel Griebenow (Kapi‘olani CC), Austin Itamoto (Kapi‘olani CC), & Angelina Chrishele Siador (Kapi‘olani CC).
Traveling these days requires a lot of hurry-up and wait scenarios, at the point of departure as well as in immigration lines. In both situations and in many others, students and their phones were inseparable. With the able assistance of Cy Feng, Honda International Center, we managed to arrive safely.
After the 11-hour ﬂight to Shanghai, we crashed, ready for orientation the next day. The students’ concierge for the program, Irina Sun, conducted orientation on Sunday morning and gave us a quick tour of the East China Normal University (ECNU) campus, a huge, beautiful campus. With 12,000 Chinese students and 5,000 international students, ECNU is a perfect place for the Freeman Scholars to improve their language skills and develop global networks.
With free time in the afternoon, Cy, the students and I walked East Nanjing Road to shop for gifts and see a bit of Shanghai. With the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, factories had been shut down to decrease the pollution in the air. The sky was actually blue! But air quality is a concern in China, as is disaster preparedness. My hotel room was equipped with a gas mask. Just in case.
On Monday, the students’ program started in earnest— language lessons in the morning and history and culture classes in the afternoon. Cy and I participated in a calligraphy class at the end of that ﬁrst day. OMG. So difﬁcult! Even the simplest of strokes proved huge challenges. The teacher, Wang Kai, has been studying and doing calligraphy since she was three years old.
The current Freeman Scholars got an opportunity to have lunch with Matt Diemer, a 2006 Freeman alum, who is still in Shanghai, working in a nightclub. Oh, the questions they had for him! Some of the current scholars are already thinking about how they might stay in Shanghai after their program ends in December.
We stayed with the students on Tuesday afternoon for a quick tour of some of Shanghai’s greatest attractions. One hour in the Shanghai Museum was just enough time to discover that we could have spent a whole day there. I focused my time on the exhibits of jade, the history and culture of the ethnic minority groups, and Chinese currency.
From the museum, we rode in our van to Yuyuan Garden, a marvelous complex of ancient buildings, sculptured rock formations, and large ponds full of fat koi. It’s a quiet respite in the middle of a busy city, with the modernity of Shanghai dramatically juxtaposed. Around the Garden are many shops, selling everything from ﬁne silver jewelry to silk to plastic trinkets for kids. A shopper’s (and bargainer’s) paradise. The day ended with a spectacular show of the Shanghai Acrobats. Men and women doing extraordinary feats of balance and strength. Graceful gymnasts ﬂoating on silk. Five motorcyclists in a spherical cage, all of them driving exceedingly fast, crisscrossing each other. Impossible!
While the students continued their daily classes, Cy and I met with various administrators and educators to discuss further opportunities for collaboration. With the Vice President of ECNU, Dr. Wang Rongming, and the Director of the Global Education Center, Huang Meixu, we talked over a request for ECNU to offer a scholarship for a UHCC student to attend ECNU’s summer program. We spent a day with Brian Yang and Ron Cornelius of Telfort Education, reviewing their interactive online program for helping Chinese students learn English and appropriate communication skills for the workplace. We also visited the Telfort business program, with its focus on business recovery, strategies to assist businesses when disasters strike. In the environment in which we live, such expertise is highly valued. We met, too, with Yong Zhou, the Director of the Confucius Institutes at ECNU. He graciously spent time with us, advising us on opportunities through the Confucius Institutes for assistance in supporting learners of Chinese and in training teachers of Chinese in pedagogy and methodology.
My impressions? It’s a BIG city! Crowded (30 million people) and noisy.Tiny shops everywhere. On every street, it seems. Shopkeepers having dinner on the sidewalk in front of their shops. Clusters of older ladies decked out in matching outﬁts doing line dances in the sultry evening air to loud music from a boom box—each cluster occupying a different portion of the wide plazas. Buildings lit up in neon. Fanciful architecture. All manner of two-wheeled vehicles, merging with and darting between cars, trucks, and buses. And rivers of pedestrians. The students were given sound advice at orientation: pedestrians give way to cars, not the other way around. With all the crazy trafﬁc, the key is for drivers not to stop. Slow down, honk your horn, and keep moving.
We said goodbye to the students at lunchtime on Thursday in one of ECNU’s cafeterias. The students are eager to improve their Chinese and to experience life in Shanghai and other cities in China. They will complete their program, and they will be transformed. They will forever see the world through a different lens. That is the gift of international education.