Making study abroad more diverse | Updated: 2017-05-09 04:32

Making study abroad more diverse

Amanda Stamp (left), global education director at the World Affairs Council and moderator, and panelists discuss diversity of participation in global education, specifically in Chinese language and cultural education at the Global Ties seminar held at the Confucius Institute US Center Wednesday night in Washington. Panelists are, from left, Franklin Eneh, program coordinator of the Johns Hopkins Nanjing Center; Brian Luckett, China-Africa researcher at Howard University; Muriel Cooper, senior manager at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and Jiang Yu, director of the Confucius Institute at Xavier University in New Orleans. YUAN YUAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

WASHINGTON — Brian Luckett's China story began with hanging out and watching Chinese movies in Washington's Chinatown from a young age.

"Before gentrification and demographic shifts in Chinatown, it was really Chinese," said Luckett, who will soon begin as a China-Africa PhD researcher at Howard University. "There was one store that had like Chinese clothing, tea, movies and we could get all kinds of movies. I was really a big fan of the films. I got hooked, I was addicted to Chinese culture from that point on."

As one of four panelists at the Global Ties: Increasing Diversity in Chinese Language and Cultural Education seminar held by Confucius Institute US Center Wednesday night in Washington, Luckett provided insights from his own experience in China.

Determined to one day figure out a way to travel to China, he applied to the Ameson Education and Cultural Exchange Foundation's Year in China program.

"I went to Guangzhou, and I taught in a middle school there. I was the first American there, first black guy they saw, and I had culture shock," he said.

Slowly but steadily, he adopted the Chinese culture and his "global consciousness exploded" because he interacted with not only Chinese people but also African migrants living in Guangzhou, the capital and most populous city of south China's Guangdong province.

"I wanted to get out of the Western, American bubble, so I enrolled in Sun Yat-sen University, and studied Chinese. I went there to teach originally but ended up studying Chinese, and it has been a snowball effect from that point," Luckett said.

Graduating from American University with a master's degree in international affairs, he will begin his doctoral studies at Howard University looking at Mandarin language learning in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Franklin Eneh, the current program coordinator of the Johns Hopkins Nanjing Center, also shared his stories of studying in China.

As a second-generation Nigerian American growing up in southwest Connecticut, he had little exposure to Asian culture until he went to college in Massachusetts. He quickly developed a strong passion for Chinese language and culture, and over time made friends with the Chinese students on campus and, determined to go abroad, studied in Harbin, Beijing and Qingdao during his junior and senior years.

"You learn so much about yourself and also about the world through studying abroad, meanwhile, you represent your culture to the host country," Eneh said. Although the diversity of study abroad participation has increased in recent years, minority students are still greatly underrepresented, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs.

"The demographic of our students has changed," said Amanda Stamp, global education director at the World Affairs Council and the moderator of the seminar. "But of those 500,000 students a year studying abroad, 74.3 percent are white. It really becomes a question: What are we doing to bring diversity to study abroad and cultural exchanges?"

The seminar aimed to "create a space for participants to share ideas, experiences and best practices on facilitating global education opportunities for underserved populations."

"When I'm here doing great things, meeting new people and learning about theses different cultures, it is noticeable that minority students are usually not a part of this experience," said Cheyenne Boyce, an intern at the Confucius Institute.

Muriel Cooper of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation discussed their efforts to send African-American students to study in China through the Emerging Leaders: US-China Study Program at Beijing Foreign Studies University and Fudan University in Shanghai.

Jiang Yu, the director of the Confucius Institute at Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college, also shared some of his experiences.

Led by Jiang since 2012 and the first Confucius Institute founded at a historically black college, the institute at Xavier has provided credit Chinese classes to students and become the leading Chinese language instruction center in Louisiana, as well as the go-to platform on Chinese culture, history and travel. Last year, it was chosen as one of top 25 Confucius Institutes worldwide.

"The major challenges of establishing a Chinese language and cultural education platform in a primarily black community are their general unfamiliarity with China and the Chinese language, and the lack of financial bases for our students to really study abroad in China," Jiang said.

He attributed the success of their Chinese education programs to the university's attention and support, the collaboration with other departments within the university and the students' curiosity and enthusiasm in learning about Chinese language and culture.

"Resource integration is the key, and we are actively working on that to create even more opportunities for our students," he said. "Our relationships with Louisiana's business and tourism sectors have created internship positions for our Chinese-speaking students."

Yuan Yuan in Washington contributed to the story.


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