Fulbright Training in Kunming
We've been in Kunming since Saturday, where the US State Department is hosting the Fulbright training program for those of us on half-year Fulbrights. Kunming is a city in western China, reportedly with the highest number of indigenous ethnic minorities (reported at 54 or so), so it is a very diverse city. We are staying at the Green Lake Hotel, near a lake which apparently is named Emerald Green Lake in Chinese. We started with presentations by various officers in the Chengdu consulate, focussing on such issues as political, legal, cultural and environmental issues in China, as well as the consular services provided to US citizens, and Chinese students seeking visas to study in the US. One interesting point: there is no maximum number of student visas set, and last year 130,000 Chinese students came to the US last year to study (15,000 US students came to China in 2009). The presentation by the Environmental, Science, Technology and Health officer on environmental issues in China was also fascinating. Two points stuck out: First, China has some serious environmental challenges to deal with, and second, the China has committed to be a leader in clean energy technology (issues discussed by US Ambassador John Huntsman at presentations in China as well see: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/ambassador_speeches.html).
On the teaching front, the Fulbright program also brought in the current full-year Fulbrighters to present on their experiences from their first six months in China. One theme that came through was the need to be flexible. One surprising difference is that often much of the planning for events is done only a short time in advance. This includes course schedules. A number of the faculty only found out a few days a head of time what they were going to teach. The other issue is the challenge to have students participate in class, something that, at least in law school, is an expectation. However, we have to be mindful of the challenge for our students of taking a course in a second language, and then to be expected to speak extemporaneously on a topic.
I leave you with a picture from Green Lake Park from this morning. The park was filled with people dancing and doing Tai Chi.