Scholars provide a tour 'around the world'

Updated: 2013-07-26 13:50

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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In the Exhibit Hall of the US State Department's Harry Truman Building on Thursday, Guo Zhonghua, a political science professor from the Sun Yat-Sen University in southern China's Guangdong province, was talking to visitors about the grassroots democracy of his country. He used an academic poster to explain what elections mean for a village.

Guo is one of 16 international scholars and more than 100 international students attending the third annual "Around the World in an Afternoon" festival hosted by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

As one of the Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) participants, Guo found it's rewarding to interact with young scholars from other countries, such as Vietnam, Nepal, India and Ukraine.

Although they did not debate some of the more contentious issues in the news such as border and maritime territorial disputes between their countries, Guo said he was impressed by the liveliness of the other scholars' academic ideas.

Apart from a two-week trip to New York and Washington, where he visited Capitol Hill, universities and museums, Guo spent a month in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, studying American politics and political thought.

He had studied the Federalist Papers back in China, but he said it was "never such a deep study" of those essays by America's founding fathers promoting the ratification of the US Constitution.

"I was very lucky to be chosen to attend the scholar program and it will be very helpful for my teaching," said Guo. The US embassy and consulates in individual countries select candidates for the program.

Natalia Mishyna, a professor of law from the National University of Ukraine, said the program enriched her experience and helped improve her understanding of US laws, which she teaches back home.

"It's also a great experience to meet so many people," said Mishyna, a professor of constitutional law and who was making her first visit to the US.

Each summer, more than 500 student leaders and scholars from around the world participate in the SUSI, hosted by academic institutions across the US.

Josue Barrera, a public affairs specialist from the State Department, said the shortterm program is an opportunity for people to get a taste of the United States.

While scholars focused on more serious subjects in front of the academic posters, undergraduate student leaders dressed in their national costumes were engaging in more colorful events at their stands.

Amira Ali Bouaouina, a college student from Algeria, was busy asking visitors to sample her hometown food from a plate while introducing the culture of her country.

She spent a month studying social entrepreneurship at the University of Connecticut, she said, "It helped us to do projects with social impact. For me, it was to help the Mali refugees in my country get an education, especially the children."

Subjects areas offered to the students include civic engagement, comparative public policy, global environmental issues, new media in journalism, public policy and government leadership and women's leadership.

Ali Bouaouina said she was glad to learn in the past weeks that Americans are friendly and open-minded about learning about other cultures

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(China Daily USA 07/26/2013 page1)