Chinese visitors


Chinese teens to study at Bluffton

Bluffton University, which sends students worldwide for cross-cultural experiences each year, is in the unusual position of being a cross-cultural destination this summer.

From July 23-Aug. 6, the university will welcome 24 Chinese students ages 14-16 as they experience the United States through a Summer English Program sponsored by Mennonite Partners in China (MPC).

“As a past China cross-cultural faculty leader, I am excited that the Bluffton community can help introduce Chinese students to life in the U.S. and reciprocate for the wonderful hospitality we experience when we visit their community,” said Dr. Hans Houshower, vice president for advancement at Bluffton. “This summer’s program is part of a broader relationship-building effort that grows from Bluffton’s long-term commitment to global education.”

The program also represents another in a series of exchanges between Bluffton and Nanchong, China. Nanchong is the home city of the visiting students, who, in Bluffton, will receive English language instruction each morning and participate in cross-cultural and recreational afternoon activities coordinated by staff from the student life office on campus.

Last July, 16 faculty members and administrators from China West Normal University in Nanchong came to Bluffton for a training institute exposing them to higher education in the U.S. That visit, envisioned as the first step in a continuing relationship between the two universities, stemmed from collaboration-related conversations in spring 2011 among Houshower, representatives of several Chinese universities and MPC staff.  

Conversely, Nanchong has been a primary destination of Bluffton’s undergraduate cross-cultural experience in China, and a stop for graduate students in business on three recent study tours of the country. In addition, Dr. Stephen Harnish, a Bluffton mathematics professor, spent one month of his spring 2013 sabbatical working with students and faculty at China West Normal.

“Bluffton’s growing relationship with China West Normal is benefiting students and faculty at both institutions,” Harnish said. “Last summer, we were able to introduce U.S. higher education to CWNU educators, which led directly to my opportunity to visit and work with CWNU faculty, including providing them with a multiprocessor computer for ongoing collaborative research.”

Harnish and Dr. Cynthia Bandish, an associate professor of English who led this spring’s cross-cultural group in China, are among the Bluffton faculty, staff and community members who will host the Chinese students during their stay.

Their English teachers, from MPC, are Dong Ling and Eric Eberly. The Harrisonburg, Va., couple will provide intensive instruction to the visitors, who have studied English grammar in school for at least three years but have a limited English vocabulary.

On campus, the students will spend afternoons at The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center; Sauder Visual Arts Center, where they will make pottery with the help of Bluffton students Megan Moreo and Charity Tripp; and the university’s nature preserve. Off-campus destinations will include Ohio Caverns and the nearby Mad River—where they will canoe—as well as the Bluffton Community Swimming Pool.

Accompanied by two Chinese teachers, the students will come to Bluffton after a week on the East Coast and leave for Los Angeles on the afternoon of Aug. 6.