Charlotte’s growing international profile now includes educational and cultural outreach to China, thanks to a partnership between Charlotte Sister Cities and UNC Charlotte. A new international course at UNC Charlotte has allowed students to hurdle both thousands of miles and cultural boundaries to bring Charlotte closer to some of its global neighbors. The innovative course was made possible through the Charlotte Sister Cities connection with Baoding China.
The course was held on Wednesday nights on the university campus and included four international public relation students, including an exchange student from South Korea, and two informational technology students. Their instructor was a Board Member for Charlotte Sister Cities. The course project, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Charlotte-Baoding Sister Cities relationship, was to create a functional website showing the heart of Charlotte to the people of Baoding. The students taking part in the course conducted research, networking and e-mail exchanges with students in Baoding to gain an appreciation of the target audience for the website. Through their research, students learned about the culture of Baoding and China in general and more about their own city. The opportunity cross-cultural communication gave the students not only valuable leads to what stories would be most interesting, but the students found international friendships being made.
The purpose of Charlotte Sister Cities is to build and maintain citizen-to-citizen relationships with Charlotte’s seven sister cities across the world. Baoding, a city similar in size to Charlotte, lies about two hours west of Beijing in the People’s Republic of China. Since the first interaction in exploring the possibility of becoming Sister Cities in1985, the Sister Cities program continues to strengthen the ties between Charlotte and Baoding.
In celebration of the anniversary of the official union in September 1987, the experimental course took flight at the beginning of the fall 2007 semester. Because the course is unique in its purpose, the structure allowed students to learn as they go, take the good with the bad and most importantly take the time to learn through a “multicultural lens.” The undergraduate students were able to get extra help from Zhou Yun, a native of Baoding, China, who earned her master’s degree in Communication Studies from UNC Charlotte and now lives and works in Charlotte. Ms. Zhou returned to campus to share tips for communicating with Chinese students, including information on the culture and life of Baoding citizens
“My students get to practice communicating with people who are not native English speakers and the Baoding students get to practice their English,” St. John said. “We hope to debut the web site for our friends at the Hebei College during a teleconference call near the end of the term,” St. John said.
The website was presented to the Baoding students and then to the people of Baoding on December 4 in a live videoconference. The website, which includes a special greeting to the citizens of Baoding from (then) Mayor Pat McCrory, is at http://www.communications.uncc.edu/intlpr/baoding/.