Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Reflections on “China and America: A Cross-Cultural Dialogue”

While the HNC offers a great selection of courses taught by stellar faculty, one class particularly stood out during the 2017 fall semester. Student blogger, Alexandra Hansen reflects on her experience in a piloted bilingual taught course, China and America: A Cross Cultural Dialogue (中国与美国:文化对话课).

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is well known for being a one-of-a-kind graduate center for students pursuing international studies. In line with the HNC’s mission to train graduates in Sino-global relations, the HNC is inherently effective in creating a cross-cultural educational experience. The courses taught at the HNC are varied in discipline, but accomplish the same goal: they inform and guide students in their study of China, the United States, and global relations through target-language curriculum. While I have enjoyed many courses I have taken at the HNC, one in particular has stood out as my favorite: “China and America: A Cross-Cultural Dialogue (中国与美国:文化对话课).”

Part of a series of new experiments in innovative teaching pedagogies at the HNC, this course is one of a few special co-taught, bilingual and cross-cultural classes offered this year. This class covers a range of topics, but mostly circulates around China’s understanding of America, and America’s understanding of China from the mid-1800s to the present day. In order to develop a fully cross-cultural environment, the class was evenly made up of 15 Chinese students and 15 international students.

Two professors collaborated to produce a curriculum that was incredibly engaging and informative. American professor Joe Renouard and Chinese professor Liu Woyu split class time during the week in order to educate students on the changing perspectives between China and America over the last few centuries. Both professors stimulated thought-provoking debates and discussions in class, and encouraged students to seek answers to the questions: In the eyes of Chinese people, what is America and who are the American people?  And in the eyes of Americans, what is China and who are the Chinese people?
 Professor Joe Renouard and Professor Liu Woyu

While many classes offered at the HNC focus on policy, diplomacy and politics, this course focused on the relationship between the ordinary people who comprise the two nations including immigrants, missionaries, traders, tourists, students, and many others. To better understand their perspectives, students enrolled in the class read original sources including diary entries, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and books and watched various films and documentaries. In addition, the class took a field trip to Pearl Buck’s house which is located on Nanjing University’s campus. After reading sections of her Pulitzer Prize winning work, “The Good Earth” it was great to see where she grew up, especially as it was so close to our HNC campus!

By immersing myself in the curriculum, assigned materials, and class discussions, I ended my first semester feeling more equipped to analyze and explore the interpersonal relationships between Chinese and American people. I believe that this course embodies the goals of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Having taken this bilingual course, which included complete immersion and cross-cultural analysis I finished off my fall semester feeling more confident in my understanding of the historical and current state of US-China relations.

Written by Alexandra Hansen, Certificate '18