Pace Univ 'bridges' US-China gap

Updated: 2014-03-25 12:28

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

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 Pace Univ 'bridges' US-China gap

Min Zhu, Chinese director for Confucius Institute at Pace University, chats with students during a meeting on Monday at Pace University in New York. Jack Freifelder / China Daily

As scholars and academics continue efforts to encourage the study of China, Pace University, in Lower Manhattan, is trying an alternative tack to promote its students' interests in the world's second-largest economy - by subsidizing a chance to study abroad.

The Annual Chinese Bridge Eastern USA Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students offers participants from a number of schools the opportunity to study in China, provided their knowledge of the Chinese language and culture stands out.

Weihua Niu, a director of the Confucius Institute (CI) at Pace, said this event has become one of the program's highlights since it began in 2010.

"Each year there are more than 20 students from at least 10 universities who submit their materials," Niu said Monday. "This event really allows students to showcase how they can use their language skills to contribute to future experiences - so it's not a competition, it's a celebration."

The event at Pace, set for March 30, is part of the 13th annual international Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition coordinated by Hanban, an organization dedicated to spreading knowledge of Chinese language and culture.

The winners from the regional final in New York will be nominated to compete against contestants from around the world in Beijing in July, with the opportunity to win a full scholarship to study in China.

This event, which is in its fifth year, is hosted by Pace's CI in conjunction with support from the New York Service Center for Chinese Study Fellows Inc (NYSC) - a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to Sino-American exchange.

Pace's CI, founded in partnership with Nanjing Normal University in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, combines professional and scholarly expertise to promote and facilitate cross-cultural exchange between the US and China.

In an effort to reach out to a broader number of applicants, Pace increased the number of participating schools to more than 100 institutions in the northeastern US.

Lindsay Bennett, program manager at Pace's CI, said that among this year's 43 entries, 25 were chosen to attend the regional final on March 30 at Pace's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts.

"Some entrants have written their own poem in Chinese and some gave tours of where they lived, so I think each person brought in their own personality," Bennett said.

Pace officials met with two student participants and a representative from NYSC on Monday to announce the school's 2014 installment of the Chinese Bridge event.

Rebecca Smith - a Pace sophomore studying modern languages who is set to take part in the event - said what's interesting about Chinese is "you don't just learn the language, you learn the entire culture".

"I studied French before, but it never really clicked for me," Smith said. "Culture and writing are so important to Chinese, and it's so much fun."

Malcolm Simms, a junior studying sociology at Montclair State University, said he started learning Chinese in high school, but before this program he "had never heard of a Chinese speaking competition".

"Last summer I went to China and stayed in Shanghai for about five weeks, and when I came back it was a totally different atmosphere," Simms said. "Being abroad gave me an opportunity to continue to meet people from a different place and get a better grasp on my Chinese."

Min Zhu, Chinese director for the CI, said by offering participating students a chance to study in China, Pace is giving students an opportunity "that could change someone's life".

(China Daily USA 03/25/2014 page2)