Chinese Students Find Adventure, American Sports, Friendship at ESU

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on July 27, 2018, No Comments

Under a bright blue sky, more than two dozen students and faculty from China kayaked the Delaware River from the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center to Portland, Pa., guided by East Stroudsburg University students and staff last week.

One of the ESU guides, Wenxiao “Alvin” Shang, a native of China who received his master’s degree from ESU in May, said it was the first time some of the students from Beijing Sport University had ever paddled a kayak. It was a great introduction to both the sport and the loveliness of the Pocono Mountains and the Water Gap.

“It’s beautiful, the sky is blue and you see the reflection of the mountains in the river,” Shang said. He was echoed by Beijing student Zhenjia “James” Xie, who added, “The mountains and the river make a great picture, a great view.”

The excursion was just one adventure in an educational and activity-packed three weeks of East Stroudsburg University’s Sport Science program. Over the course of the cultural exchange that wraps up Aug. 4, ESU staff members are guiding the Chinese group on trips to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, as well as regional attractions such as Bushkill Falls and Dorney Park. ESU faculty and staff are also working with the Chinese students on intensive instruction in English and providing seminars and demonstrations in American sports and exercise science.

ESU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jeff Wilson ’86 M’92, and Assistant Coach Muhamadou Kaba held a workshop on basketball, and the students tried kickboxing with Edward Arner, ESU instructor of sport management.  The group golfed at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, hiked at Bushkill Falls and completed a ropes course and zipline at Stony Acres recreation center.

Xie and Chinese student Ji “Ann” Wang said they especially liked the ropes course, zip line and kayaking.

“We’ve got many new skills,” Ji Wang said.

This is the fourth year for the Sport Science program, which is directed by ESU Professor of Physical Education Gene White, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Physical Education Peng Zhang, Ph.D. The Chinese students stay in Hawthorn Suites residence hall with two ESU students, Andrew Lopez and Brooke Kaminsky, acting as camp counselors.

Working with the Chinese students has been a revelation for Lopez and Kaminsky.

“I’ve been learning a lot from them about their culture and how they see our culture,” Kaminsky said. “It’s really just a great experience so far.”

“We were playing football and everybody was enjoying it,” said Kaminsky, a sophomore majoring in health education from Philadelphia, Pa. “I don’t think they had ever held a football before today. I was helping them position their hands properly on the ball. They had a blast.”

She has learned the Beijing students are huge Taylor Swift fans.

“They know all the songs, and they sing in English,” she said.

Lopez, a junior majoring in physical education teacher certification from Scranton, Pa., said he admires the way the students treat each other and strangers with respect.

“When they eat, they don’t order one platter like we all do,” he said. “They actually order four separate things and they share. They’re more family oriented.”

Jinghao “Michael” Wang, who is majoring in sport training at Beijing Sport University, said he was glad to be working on his English and learning more about American sports, especially football.

“It’s an amazing sport,” Wong said.

Cynthia Leenerts, Ph.D., ESU associate professor of English, works with Steve Ives, interim director of International Programs, and Alvin Shang, to help the students improve their English proficiency. The emphasis is on conversational English so they can use what they learn right away. So, for example, the students are learning “shopping English, dining English, asking somebody out English,” Dr. Leenerts said.

Ives said that includes “mock demonstrations so they can practice ordering food at a restaurant, so they know the protocol, what taxes will be added, how they should tip – because that’s different, learning about those type of customs.”

Leenerts and Ives said Shang is helping the Chinese students understand American slang and idioms, which often trip up foreigners.

“We did icebreakers because it was the first time we met with them,” Ives said. “And Alvin explained what ‘break the ice’ means.”

During the opening ceremony, Ives and others thanked ESU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joanne Bruno, J.D., for her support of the program. But Bruno said organizers such as White, Zhang, Leenerts, Ives, Shang and their Chinese counterparts deserve the credit for all the work they do providing for such a unique opportunity and cultural exchange.

“I’m just lucky enough to be in an office that can say, ‘Go for it.’” Bruno said.

Peng Gao, a professor of Beijing Sport University, said what the Chinese students learn from the experience goes far beyond academics.

“This is deep learning that our students cannot gain inside classrooms,” Gao said. “Thank you again for opening your hearts for us today.”

White and Zhang said they hoped the program would challenge and inspire the students.

“One of the things I’ve learned from my students is that my particular career is not about teaching you to throw or kick or run, my career is about teaching people and helping people grow,” Dr. White said.

Shang said he enjoys showing his countrymen American culture and bringing Chinese culture to Americans.

“Education is without borders,” he said.