Chinese culture inspiration for student

Updated: 2014-12-02 09:39

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese culture inspiration for student

Members of the Pace University Confucius Institute and the New York Chinese Opera Society (NYCOS) award two students with cash prizes on Monday at Pace University in New York for their submissions to the Fourth Annual NYCOS Essay Competition. Julieth Saenz (fourth from left) and Elizabeth Delaney (fourth from right), both seniors at Pace University, took home the first- and third-place prizes, respectively. Jack Freifelder/ China Daily.

As scholars continue to encourage the study of China, Pace University in New York hopes an essay contest will pique students' interests in the country.

The winners of the fourth annual New York Chinese Opera Society (NYCOS) Essay Competition were announced on Monday at a press conference at the university in Lower Manhattan.

Weihua Niu, a director of the Confucius Institute (CI) at Pace, said five years ago the NYCOS helped Pace University set up a special award to encourage college students to write about Chinese culture.

Niu said the essay contest gives students a chance to think critically about Chinese culture.

"Some of the students actually traveled to China to combine what they've learned with their own first-hand experience, so the topics this year are quite varied," she said.

A committee from the Pace CI Advisory Board reviewed the essays, and three were awarded cash prizes. Ten participants submitted their research projects in October.

Topics of the winning essays included the stigma about learning disabilities in China and India; environmental problems caused by economic growth in China; and the role of Confucianism in Chinese economics.

Elizabeth Delaney, a 21-year-old senior psychology major, said events like Pace's contest motivate students to research their interests outside of class.

"From time to time, you're forced to write papers on a subject that you don't necessarily want to write about," Delaney told China Daily. "This motivates people to find an interest of their own and elaborate on it further through research.

"I already had a previous interest in different learning disabilities and how the mind works, but this really sparked my interest," she said. "It's very beneficial for students to make their interests more of a priority, and not just have it as something on the side."

Julieth Saenz, a 21-year-old senior studying economics, said China is one of the most interesting countries that she has worked with, especially because its culture is so different from Western culture. "After visiting Shanghai and talking to students, company managers, etc, it made me wonder how exactly Chinese culture was so different from ours," Saenz said.

Delaney and Saenz won the first- and third-place prizes in the essay contest, which carried cash prizes of $600 and $200, respectively.

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

"It's amazing to see how young people engage and embrace Chinese culture," said Chi K Chu, president of NYCOS. "As a person who was born in Shanghai, grew up in Hong Kong, but was educated and raised a family here in the United States … cultural exchange is a common language that broadens the horizons of all different races and ethnic groups."

Joseph Morreale, an economics professor at Pace who is on the advisory board for Pace's CI, said: "Pace brings a number of students to China in the summer, students that go to learn about Chinese culture. They have wonderful, transformational experiences, and out of those experiences come the essays they write. That really heartens our soul."

The NYCOS' flagship event, the eighth annual Winter Cultural Exchange Festival, will be held Dec 6 at Pace's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, 3 Spruce St.