Exchange student from China notices differences in education culture

By: Sadie All, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
January 8, 2014

When Baoying Fu came to Indiana State University, she immediately found major differences in her college classes compared to those in her native China.

"People here feel more confident in raising a problem or question[ing] a professor's question," Fu said. "In Beijing I think it has to do with cultural instinct [that] we don't interrupt [the] teacher... not a lot of students are active in responding."

According to Fu, student/professor interactions during class time do not take place nearly as much in Beijing compared to the U.S. Beijing students tend to only answer a professor's question when they feel that their answer is correct.

"When I first came here it really surprised me how willing students were to raise their questions and share with others," Fu said. "I think traditional Chinese culture emphasizes being modest."

Fu has also enjoyed the freedom in choosing courses which interest her. In Beijing, students are assigned to courses.

"I find that academic studies [are] more interesting here," she said. "For example multicultural literature class exposed [me] to Native American literature, Mexican-American, [and] Chicago [literature]. I think this exposure is very helpful for me to see different cultures more and understand different kinds of literature."

Fu was able to visit South Putnam middle and high schools through her English course while at Indiana State. She also worked in the Chinese school of the Wabash Valley. 

"If I can share how to learn languages well with my future students it would be very good," she said. "Shar[ing] what I have known with other people and see them progress positively I really think that makes me feel I can achieve progress through teaching."

Fu came to Indiana State for the fall semester to study English. Her experience was possible due to the exchange program Indiana State has with Beijing International Studies University [BISU].

Jake Jakaitis, director of undergraduate studies in English, is responsible for the student exchange program between Indiana State and the Beijing university.

Chris McGrew, director of the Center for Global Engagement, initially asked Jakaitis if he would be interested in visiting a university in China with intentions of expanding the student exchange program. Having lived and taught in China from 1995-1996, Jakaitis was still in contact with a few of his former Chinese students. He spoke with Li Sujie, a Beijing professor, who invited him to give three lectures at the university and conduct meetings with administrators and faculty about an exchange program. Jakaitis visited BISU during April and later developed a contract agreed upon by the presidents of the two universities.

"At present, the exchange with [BISU] is exclusively a student exchange program sending their students to ISU for short term non-degree study," Jakaitis said. "That is, the BISU students arrive for a semester or for an academic year, complete courses and transfer the credits to BISU but they are not currently working on an ISU degree."

Fu was one of the few who were selected by the Beijing university to come to Indiana State through the exchange program. She will only stay at Indiana State until February, but plans to return to the United States after she finishes her senior year at BISU. Fu then plans to apply to graduate schools in North America.

"I think I'm [coming] back to North America in a year," Fu said. "In Canada I would like to apply for University of British Columbia."

Although Fu is very interested in graduate school programs for English, she has now broadened her interests to English and Chinese teaching as well. For the time being, though, she is leaving her options open.

"Right now I feel that I [will] explore more once I'm in grad school." Fu said.

Writer: Sadie All, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or sall@sycamores.indstate.edu