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Chinese cadets visit UNG for a deep dive in American culture

Chinese cadets visit UNG for a deep dive in American culture
Six cadets (with chaperone) from Liaocheng University in China are visiting UNG for a three-week stay to learn more about American culture, sit in on classes and further develop their English language skills.

A contingent of six cadets from Liaocheng University in China are on a three-week cultural immersion visit at the University of North Georgia (UNG) to learn more about American culture and develop their English communication skills. The cadets, all on their first trip to the United States, are on the Dahlonega Campus from Sept. 11-29.

Liaocheng University, founded in 1974, is in western Shandong province of China with more than 33,000 students. Liaocheng is one of UNG's longest-running international partnerships, started with the signing a faculty exchange agreement in 2009 and a student exchange in 2010. Both universities have hosted a continuous stream of visiting faculty, students and administrators as a way of gaining a better understanding of each nation's culture, learning and teaching methods, and interpersonal communication.

Geng Hao, a 21-year-old senior majoring in communications who goes by his English name Steve, said he and his fellow students have received a warm welcome from UNG students and faculty as well as members of the community.

"Everyone here is very friendly," he said. "People are very patient and kind when we ask for directions or just a question, because our English needs work. The students here have been really helpful and have made us feel welcome. We are always greeted with a smile; that is something that I am not use to."

The cadets' liaison Dr. James Badger, director of UNG’s Center for Language Education (CLE) and professor in the College of Education, said the six are at UNG as officer candidates for the Chinese military.

"These young men are the cream of the crop," Badger said. "They were chosen because of their advanced English-speaking skills, their academic background and their ability to pick things up quickly."

The cadets follow a daily routine: English classes in the morning, then courses on a variety of topics for the rest of the day, including political science, computer science and cultural studies. They stay in one of the on-campus residence halls and eat meals in the dining hall, allowing them to mingle with UNG students.

Another cadet, 20-year-old junior Li Feng, who calls himself David, is amazed by what most Americans take for granted.

"The sky is so blue and the air is so clean and it is very beautiful here," Feng said. "We get to eat as much food as we want and it is all good food. (Back home) we all sleep six or eight to a room, here, not that many to a room. And we get to sleep on soft beds. I enjoy staying here."

The cadets went on a tour of Riverside Military Academy, a private college preparatory school in Gainesville, Georgia, for boys in grades 7-12. They also went on a day trip to Atlanta to see the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium and other sites and had the opportunity to interact with other international students studying English in the CLE.

They have a field trip planned to Fort Benning, Georgia, for a tour of the infantry and armor schools as well as the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Badger said the six may be the last group of cadets from Liaocheng's military college because the Chinese government is closing military programs at some universities and consolidating others. He said what the cadets learn during their short stay here can't be taught from a textbook, in a classroom thousands of miles away in China. Here, they listen to lectures delivered by UNG professors, talk with the students and observe some classes.

"They get to meet and learn about Americans, take in the culture," Badger said. "They get an opportunity to live among us, to see how we are, without any filters. They then take that experience back with them and share it with their peers. It's all about building very important bridges of understanding between our two nations." 

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