Confucius Institute marks its fifth year at George Mason Univ

Updated: 2014-05-08 11:25

By Liu Chang in Washington (China Daily USA)

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Confucius Institute marks its fifth year at George Mason Univ

Kelly Eisenhart (right), a student of the Confucius Institute of George Mason University, says her life has been changed in a speech at the celebration banquet for the 5th anniversary of the institute at Mason Inn Conference Center & Hotel on Tuesday evening, with William Reeder, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, standing by. Liu Chang / China Daily

It was just a suggestion from one of Kelly Eisenhart's professors at George Mason University. Little did she know it would eventually change her life.

All the professor said was that the Confucius Institute at the school could enrich her by learning more about an exotic culture.

That was about three years ago. Now she is totally absorbed by the institute, and with the Chinese language and culture.

Anna Lanman, another George Mason student, traveled to China under the CI's study exchange program.

"To live in another country and completely immerse myself in another culture is fascinating," she said.

The CI at George Mason celebrated its fifth anniversary on Tuesday evening at the Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel.

As a joint project between the university and Beijing Language and Culture University, the agreement to establish the institute was approved in October 2008 and the institute opened in April 2009.

William Reeder, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and co-executive sponsor of the CI at the school, said, "Thinking about the fifth anniversary, you think about the differences between an instant and five years of instances all built one on top of another."

"Trying to get a Confucius Institute was a logical step for us in terms of spending our resources and collaborations concerning Chinese language and Chinese culture. It worked very well just as we hoped for," said Peter Stearns, provost and executive vice-president of George Mason.

Joy Hughes, former co-executive sponsor of the CI at the university, said that when the school started the institute the goal was to increase the number of people who speak Chinese and who know something about China. "But we didn't quite know what that meant. So we translated it into whatever we do should have long-range impact and should be sustainable," she said.

And the institute has achieved that goal. According to the university, each year the institute hosts a variety of approximately 100 cultural activities and attracts more than 10,000 participants. It was awarded "Confucius Institute of the Year" at the Annual Confucius Institute Conference in December, 2013.

A number of George Mason students have gone to China, taking advantage of both short courses and longer exposure to Chinese-language instruction.

Eisenhart said she wants to learn more than Chinese grammar and composition, and that she is more drawn to real life in China.

"Unfortunately, because I haven't had the opportunity to travel to China, I feel I have been at a little bit of a disadvantage, especially from the cultural standpoint," she said. "The Confucius Institute has been a way for me to bridge that gap."

(China Daily USA 05/08/2014 page2)