Science - April 28, 2005

WUR delegation visits Beijing

Rector Professor Bert Speelman had promised that in April a delegation of Wageningen students and lecturers would visit the China Agricultural University in Beijing. And so it came to pass. Each of the three bachelors programmes that will receive a new group of Chinese students in September sent a small delegation to spend a week on the campus in China.

The food technologists decided to introduce the Chinese students to a few of their future classmates. A Chinese student, Cynthia Zhao Siyu, also went back to her old university to tell about how she has found her first year in Wageningen. The students asked many questions about the study. Siyu: ‘They wanted to know if it’s difficult, what subjects they will take, that kind of thing.’ Siyu herself is a fast talker, but that is not typical of Chinese students she says. ‘By nature the Chinese are a bit shy.’ They are also afraid of making mistakes when talking in English. ‘That’s why I told them they will have to change if they want to get to know other students. The Dutch are nice people, but we are the ones who will have to start the conversation,’ says Siyu.

During the mornings the students had a joint programme during which they had an opportunity to get to know more about each other’s culture. In the afternoons the Chinese students went to their normal lectures, but on two afternoons they practised PGO (problem-based learning). First-year Dutch student Harmke Klunder: ‘At first they found this very difficult to understand. In China they are presented with learning material and they just have to learn it. We explained to them that in the Netherlands it’s more about understanding than cramming facts. If they get to know a little bit about how to deal with this now, it should be easier for them when they arrive in September.’

The Chinese students also got a taste of student life outside studying. In Beijing the students usually sleep six to a room, and there are no kitchens in their dormitories. They eat in a big canteen on campus. Siyu: ‘Most students are not used to cooking for themselves. Some are even going to do cooking lessons in the summer before they come to the Netherlands.’ The students will also have to get used to the Dutch food on offer in the Mensas. Klunder: ‘When we showed a photo of typically Dutch food, potatoes and a sausage (worstje), their reaction was: oh no, do we have to eat that?’

Both Klunder and Siyu were enthusiastic about their visit and think it will help the new Chinese students to integrate when they arrive in Wageningen. Siyu: ‘I hope that they’ve now got a better idea of how to prepare themselves. Most of them already know that they will definitely be coming so they can use the new information.’ Klunder: ‘We were able to tell them a lot about the Netherlands, and also to explain more about our openness. While it is true that they are coming to a more open society, this is a relative term. It will not all be plain sailing, and they will have to be the ones to take the first step towards contact.’ / JH

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