SA leaders travel to China

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

SDSU has signed a new student exchange agreement with a Chinese university after a group of students and administrators visited China Sept. 15 to 25 to explore the university and learn more about Chinese culture.

Yunnan Normal University (YNU), located in Kunming in Southwest China, has five different campuses spread throughout the city.

“It would be like putting four or five SDSUs in Chicago,” said Students Association President Amanda Mattingly, who was one of four students who visited the Chinese university.

The university has about 9,000 students and offers many of the same programs as SDSU, President Peggy Gordon Miller said.

SDSU has been exchanging faculty with YNU for several years, Miller said.

However, the relationship dried up in recent years, said Karl Schmidt, director of international programs. He said SDSU wasn’t sending anyone to YNU because of the educational and political shift China was going through and the SARS outbreak. He said now YNU has a new president and it is now safe to send faculty and students there.

YNU’s president reached out to SDSU to continue the program.

“He was really keen to start this,” Schmidt said. “They are very serious. They really value their relationship with SDSU.”

Those who went on the trip were Miller; her husband Robert; Schmidt; Dean of Student Affairs Marysz Rames; and four students.

Mattingly, SA Vice President Doug Timm, Jane Tschetter and Matt Anderson were all asked to travel to China because of their student leadership roles at SDSU. All four are involved in activities where they have the opportunity to influence other students to travel abroad, Rames said.

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Miller asked the students to come along so they could experience China.

“We wanted to include students in the agreement, not just faculty,” she said.

They toured the campus and talked to students and professors from the university. They met with university officials, slept in the residential halls and ate on campus.

“We came away with a good sense of what it would be like for students to go there for a period of time,” Schmidt said.

While in Kunming, an international student and an English professor showed them around the university and the city.

The people at the university were kind to the group.

“They were excited to see us and to interact with us,” Timm said. “They went out of their way to be nice to us.”

When they were on the campus, they saw how YNU treats their international students.

“I think they work very hard at making international students feel welcomed,” Mattingly said.

The group also spent time in Beijing experiencing the Chinese culture, Mattingly said.

“It’s really hard to grasp the culture in five days, but we got a good picture of what life would be like over there for an American,” she said.

While in China, the group was able to see some historical sites such as the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. They shopped at markets along the streets of Beijing, and toured the U.S. Embassy.

China has a booming economy and this exchange can prepare students for their careers, Miller said.

“In an geo-economical-political world, our students need to be informed and comfortable with those nations that will be consequential,” Miller said.

After experiencing the culture and seeing the university, Timm and Mattingly both said they want to encourage students to study in China.

“If you have the opportunity to do it, go for it,” he said.

Timm hopes to attend the summer program there this summer.

“I really took to China,” he said. “If I was going to study there, I would be happy.”

Although an agreement has been signed, the universities are waiting for approval from the Board of Regents, but Schmidt said he expects to start sending students to YNU by next summer.

SDSU is currently looking at finding a way to teach the Chinese language and culture so more students will want to study there, Rames said.

“It opens so many doors for students,” she said. “It’s not for everyone, but sometimes I feel that our students don’t know that it exists.”

#1.885899:4046401750.jpg:china.jpg:SA Vice President Doug Timm and President Amanda Mattingly enjoy a scenic spot on their trip to China.: