Joining Jianguo Chen (center), Confucius Institute director, on the UD coordinating team for the NSLI-Y summer institute in China are student assistant Gao Chang; Maria Tu, assistant professor of Chinese and co-director of the UD NSLI-Y; Huang Jianjun, co-director of the Confucius Institute and deputy director of the College for International Education at Xiamen University; and Carrie Fang, Confucius Institute program coordinator.

Cultural diplomacy

UD leads American cultural diplomacy institute in China this summer

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9 a.m., June 28, 2012--The Confucius Institute at the University of Delaware will lead 30 outstanding American students in the experience of their lives this summer through a six-week cultural diplomacy institute in Shanghai, from July 1 to Aug. 11, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)

This is the fourth consecutive year the University of Delaware will host the summer institute in China, and the first time the Confucius Institute at UD will be involved in the effort, which has been highly acclaimed as a “role model program” by the State Department. 

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Jianguo Chen, associate professor of Chinese studies in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and director of the Confucius Institute at UD, is the principal investigator on the $303,500 grant. Since 2007, he has received over $1.5 million to conduct the program, which is designed for exemplary high school students and recent graduates. 

The NSLI-Y will take place at East China Normal University (ECNU), a leading university that is one of UD’s partner institutions in China and has been involved in the institute since 2009.

The program’s theme this year is “Cultural Diplomacy: Understanding a Fast-Changing China,” and a rich variety of activities and language immersion opportunities will engage students in a unique learning experience, according to Chen. 

“The objective is to promote among the participants an interest in developing, supporting and sustaining intercultural relations between the United States and China as the two powerhouses of the world’s economy and two important sociopolitical forces in the world,” Chen said. “In promoting ‘cultural diplomacy,’ our goal is to facilitate understanding and exchange, particularly in terms of mutual trust and cooperation.”

A key component of the summer institute is an immersion program that includes over 120 hours of intensive classroom Mandarin Chinese instruction, as well as individualized tutoring, a 15-day home-stay with local Chinese families, and “buddy activities” through which the American students will not only practice their language skills, but also foster friendships with local students.

Additionally, students will attend lectures on diverse topics ranging from history to popular culture, interact with Chinese people from different walks of life, visit local schools, chat with China’s cultural and social celebrities, and visit joint venture enterprises, as well as meet with American diplomats in Shanghai and expatriates from around the world. 

Students interested in diplomatic careers will receive valuable guidance from the American General-Consulate in Shanghai, as public affairs officer Gregory Pfleger will provide important information on how to prepare for a profession in the U.S. Foreign Service. 

As part of the program, students will develop e-journals that reflect their cross-cultural journeys and their comparative thinking about the two different cultures. They will also share their experiences in a program blog on this website.

More than 750 students, ages 16–18, from across the United States applied to the competitive program. The 30 participants selected are from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

The State Department’s NSLI-Y is a presidential initiative designed to help prepare Americans to be leaders in a global world by improving their ability to engage with people internationally. It provides merit-based scholarships to U.S. high school students and recent graduates interested in learning less commonly studied foreign languages overseas, including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajik), Russian and Turkish. 

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photo by Ambre Alexander

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