On July 31, the UD NSLIY students had a cross-cultural gathering with a group of the United Nations officials and diplomats, who were visiting Xiamen University, to share their experience of Chinese learning and their insights about Chinese culture and society. The students staged a joyful performance, all in Chinese, about their life in China, which attracted a large audience from campus community. The gathering was televised by Xiamen TV Station on the evening of July 31 in its prime time.
One of the important features of the UD NSLIY is “Buddy Activity,” during which our students meet with Chinese students from local high schools twice a week to chat about differences and similarities between American and Chinese schools, their dreams and learn Chinese dances, songs, paintings, etc. On July 28, “buddies” met again to discuss Peking Opera and learned to paint Peking Opera masks and make puppet figures for “shadow play,” a traditional theatrical form popular in southern Fujian province. They truly had a lot of fun!
Painting a Peking Opera mask
Pose with Peking Opera masks
Shadow Puppet is fanscinating
By Ann Williams
July 22, 2015
“我不知道，我听不懂，请再说一遍,” (I don’t know, I don’t understand, can you please repeat?) is what I feel I am saying over and over again! However, lots of laughter, lots of hand gestures, and lots of patience from both me and my incredible host family are helping break through the language barrier. This barrier is actually considerably easy to ignore, if you can avoid stressing out about getting your meaning across and instead focus on the great times you are having together, whether you’re playing cards, making dumplings, or giving gifts, as NSLI-Y students have done the past two days with their host families. Yesterday our Chinese parents welcomed us with open arms and today has been no different as they continue to bend over backwards to make sure we’re comfortable.
Even though we part in the afternoon, NSLI-Y students come together again each day in the morning starting with class and ending with tutoring. This week, we are learning paper cutting, calligraphy, and the popular Little Apple dance that stormed Chinese media not too long ago. These activities are not only incredibly fun but also add more depth to our intense learning of everything about Chinese culture. NSLI-Y students definitely feel, now more than ever, as if they are definitely a part of China while they stay with their host families.
In the second day of this new lifestyle, while many things are new and different, on more than one occasion I was struck with a strange familiarity of my own home in America. When my host mom brought out bokchoy as a dish of my delicious welcome feast yesterday, I discovered she had prepared it exactly as my own mother does—sautéed with garlic. After we ate, we sat in the living room and talked together—about my hometown, my family, and about how hard my host dad’s dialect is to understand. Even though I was struggling to understand half of what what was being said, I felt a strange comfort in being together and laughing and joking, just as I would in my own home. The language barrier did not block any of the welcome that my new family was giving me. I continue to be excited every day for a chance to practice what I’m learning and observe and discover even more about China, a place I am so unfamiliar with but strangely, feels like home.
David and Andy proudly show their paper cutting works-in-progress
Caroline and her host sister smile happily
Henry watches intently as his family helps him make tea.
By Anna Rempe
July 26, 2015
After a week in homestay, I have become accustomed to my family’s routine. When I joined this program, I assumed that I would only have one sibling, but I soon discovered that I had been lucky enough to join a family that had two adorable (evidence below) girls! The eldest has a lot of patience with my inability to understand her a good portion of the time. My host parents have been unbelievably kind. I am sure feeding a vegetarian has not been the most convenient for them, but they have excelled at preparing dishes.
At first, awkward lulls in conversation occurred frequently: I did not know what to say or what to ask – even if I could use English. However, conversation has become less awkward, excluding the times when I cannot understand what they say, and we have had many interesting discussions. They told me of their interest in moving to California and asked many questions about America and American schools. Although I certainly spoke in choppy sentences with horrendous grammar, they understood my meaning. This has forced me to think of creative ways to explain what I do not understand which has undoubtedly improved my Charade skills. On the way to school, I often ask my dad how to say something I see. After saying the Chinese word, he asks me how to say it in English. Together we have improved our vocabulary.
While I frequently talked to my parents and older sister, the younger sister took a while to warm up to me. Although she frequently talked with her sister, she rarely spoke directly to me. However, one day while beginning my homework in my bedroom, my youngest sister peeked around the corner into my room. She hesitated outside, until I told her to come sit on my bed. She seemed upset, but would not explain why. I asked her if she wanted to hear some of the Chinese story I had to read for homework. After a while, she still seemed upset, so I asked her if she wished to draw. A few stars in she returned to her cheerful self and proceeded to introduce me to her many stuffed animals – one featured in the picture above. Later, she showed me a card she had received for her birthday. I think we bonded over our ability to read the characters for happy birthday, and inability to read the rest of the card.
Although I learned in the most uncomfortable way the meaning of 蚊子 wen2 zi (mosquito), I truly wish I could stay in this home longer.
Homestay is an important component of the UD NSLIY Summer Institute. The two-week homestay (July 20-August 6) helps students experience the everyday life of ordinary Chinese people on first-hand basis. Located within a 10-20 minutes distance from Xiamen University, the host families were carefully selected and screened. The cross-cultural experience features, among others, “at-home Chinese tutoring”, interactive cultural activities, “cultural chats”, “a bite of Chinese food culture”, “meeting with people in the neighborhood”, etc. “It’s indeed an excellent activity,” student Samara Schuman was quoted as saying.