Undergrads a class act

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Undergrads a class act

Postby James Ang » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:08 am

Undergrads a class act

By Bryna Sim

I'M NO stranger to hearing negative comments about the China nationals (PRCs) on our university campus.

Many gossip about their dressing and accent, and find their academic competitiveness a threat.


But I'd like to challenge such attitudes, after having spent a year in Beijing on a bicultural immersion programme.

Let's look first at dressing.

A Singaporean friend once joked that the Chinese love numbers, alphabet letters and cartoon characters on their backs.

I must admit, on the Beijing campus, it wasn't uncommon for students to attend lectures in Minnie and Mickey Mouse tops. But it was a simplicity I came to appreciate.

What's wrong with dressing down, as long as you feel confident? And why should we subject others to trends, when clothes have no bearing on character?

Now a look at classroom attitudes.

In Beijing, students go to classes 30 minutes beforehand to revise their notes and prepare questions.

During lessons, most listen, rapt, and carefully take notes. This enthusiasm remained even after class, with many cornering lecturers with questions.

Some even insisted on practising their English by conversing with me, at first highly alarming me with what seemed like a more severe case of kiasu-ism than Singapore's.

But I soon realised that such behaviour stemmed from drive and determination, not zero-sum competitiveness.

They readily offered to proofread my history essays written in Chinese , and bought me apples and oranges (or whatever fruit was in season) to ensure I was well-nourished.

It was all practical, but it came from the heart. And in return, I gave them English lessons.

I came to understand that they viewed studying hard as filial piety, especially because the parents of many of them were peasants who had toiled in the countryside all their lives just to get them into this prestigious university.

Compare such passion with the attitude of students here. Do we really pay attention to our lecturers? Or are we chatting happily on MSN or shopping online with our swanky laptops? Are we punctual? Or do we saunter in late?

And how many of us would buy presents for one another simply out of concern for another's well-being, let alone genuinely assist someone else with academic problems?

The PRCs hardly own laptops or cars, but there is richness in their modesty.

My immersion programme has been an eye-opener, and the warmth of the PRCs has humbled me. They made me feel at ease in Beijing, although I was far from home.

By comparison, we deliberately ostracise them here.

Granted, they are different from us. But they are entitled to their own manners and methods.

When I attempted to be truly open-minded, I found that I understood them better.

Now I no longer view them as different. Instead, I regard them as unique. It's not our right to insist that they fit in with us; it's rude.

What gives us the authority to deny others their culture? Why should we even think ourselves better than them? It's time for a change of heart - and perspective.

The writer, 24, attended Peking University from July 2007 to August last year. She is now a journalist with The New Paper.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

James Ang
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Re: Undergrads a class act

Postby James Ang » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:14 am

James Ang wrote:
I came to understand that they viewed studying hard as filial piety,
especially because the parents of many of them were peasants who had toiled in the countryside all their lives just to get them into this prestigious university.



Good local kids should view studying hard as filial piety too :D and strive to get into University.

James Ang
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Postby kaydenbrown » Sat Aug 29, 2009 9:01 pm

I read that article with interest the other day. I am sure that many students have benefited from going to China for programmes or immersion activities. I have seen how some of my ex students become very different once they study in China.
They seem more driven, motivated and their people skills actually improve.

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Postby jedamum » Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:10 pm

does the writer have to go all the way to China to learn that regardless of nationality, there are genuine and hardworking people in existence?

i won't be surprised that the writer came from privileged background.....

don't have to go to China just to be influenced into being driven or motivated - we have plenty of welfare organizations requiring voluntary efforts locally.

take the road less traveled, and one will have the opportunity to open their eyes and hearts to a different experience.

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