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Service Learning Takes Senior Joshua Smith to China

West Liberty University senior Joshua Smith took part in a higher education pilot program recently that has offered him an interesting future.

Josh is second from left, shown with other student workers in China.

Josh is second from left, shown with other student workers in China.

A journalism major from New Martinsville, W.Va., Smith recently completed a scholarship program for a summer service learning experience in China. He spent four weeks teaching English and learning about the East Asian powerhouse country.

The learning program was led by West Virginia State University in coordination with Marshall University and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

“I feel very fortunate and appreciate the assistance from the state of West Virginia and West Liberty University, especially Beverly Burke. I was lucky to get the scholarship and it meant a lot,” he said recently. Burke is the senior administrative assistant in the Academic Affairs Office and coordinates many educational internship and study abroad programs.

Smith’s experience started with a 15-hour plane ride that ended in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. He left for China on July 8 and returned Aug. 5 with enough memories to last a lifetime.

The summer program offered cultural and language training, plus the chance to earn a three-credit hour International Studies course taught by WVSU Professor Xiaohong Zhang.

Busy street scene.

Busy China street scene.

Also a volunteer writer for the Trumpet student newspaper, Smith’s service consisted of teaching English to Chinese schoolchildren, age 11 -18. But he soon discovered that his students taught him just as much.

“While teaching students, I learned how beautiful the English language is. The Chinese students spoke English very formally and it was poetic and a neat learning experience for me,” he said, adding that he taught in rural locations for only a small part of the time he was in China

He also found the people of China hospitable.

“They were very warm and welcoming and really wanted to help us learn about their culture. They were very careful to make a good impression and they apologized a lot, afraid that we were having a difficulty with language translation or cultural differences,” he noted.

Dramatic shot at the Wall of China.

Dramatic shot at the Wall of China.

Smith is a transfer student at West Liberty, joining the Hilltop in the fall of 2012. He transferred from Marshall University.

“Since I transferred to WL one of my goals was to travel abroad. So this trip was perfect and I recommend it to any student interested in study abroad.”

Another thing he learned is to broaden his mind toward different ways of life.

“I strengthened my skills at being more open, to try things and talk to people, not be shy at all. I loved the language and picked it up well. I really want to continue to learn how to speak Mandarin.

Smith stayed on the campus of Tsinghua University, Beijing, most of the time, and according to him the food was great.

“Certain tastes were not ideal but overall everything was wonderful. The food was nothing like Chinese-American food,” he said. He also was warned against the Chinese drink called Baijiu, a type of rice wine that can be dangerous to Americans because it is very strong.

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Terracotta Army landmark.

“Mainly the Chinese drink tea and hot water,” he said. (You have to boil water to drink it.) Smith said that this past summer also was the hottest summer in 104 years so much of the time the temperature was in the 90s and the weather was very humid.

“We traveled the whole time while in China, staying in four different hotels, dorms and rural dorm rooms,” he explained. Describing the rooms as different from American hotel rooms, he explained that the beds have mattress pads, not full mattresses.

Some of the big sites he visited include the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an and the Temple of Heaven. Overall, Smith enjoyed the experience very much and hopes to return to China in the near future.

“I plan on going back to teach English after graduation next spring. I have a friend in China now teaching so I stay in touch with him and I hope to work on my Mandarin with West Liberty international students,” he said.

For more information on global opportunities for study abroad, please contact Burke at 304-336-8004.