Reflective Journal on China Apres Tour Essay Example
Before the departure to China, I had endorsed the experiential learning process that was part of the study tour and I had a strong belief that I will learn a lot from the tour. Still, I had a personal preference for particular forms of learning, even though I expected that I would draw on different processes of learning all through the tour. Basically, my inclination towards certain styles of learning reflects my views concerning the nature of knowledge. Before the tour, I had communicated to my classmates a clear sense of the type of knowledge that I was expecting to acquire by visiting China. I believed that during the study tour, acquisition of new data would be part of the learning process, and I would also make personal connections with Chinese culture and people. I expected that the new environment would facilitate me to culturally learn the different means of ‘knowing’. I thought that the ‘experience’ of engaging directly with Chinese culture would offer me an understanding of China’s authority and authenticity, and improve my understanding of the cultural forms and values in China. I particularly noted that the study tour created affective learning, which confronted my preconceived conceptions and images concerning China and stirred ‘real’ insights into China’s cultural as well as social diversity in a manner that was superior to, and different from, the intellectualised viewpoints achieved through formal learning. In this reflective journal, I will highlight and discuss experiences and insights on my Study Tour to SUIBE University as well as Fudan University in Shanghai and I will explain how I learned from the study tour.
Prior to the study tour, I expected to learn through data acquisition, experience, research; and know different method of understanding and connecting with people. Instead, I actually learned through comparison, excitement as well as inductive and affective process. When touring SUIBE University and Fudan University, I noted that classrooms in China are more teacher focused as compared to those in Australia that focus more on students. That is to say, in China, the teacher is more inclined to deliver answers to the students. This is different in Australia, where the teacher gives us the required basic knowledge and then expects us to use the knowledge to do something constructive. At SUIBE University, I noted that interaction between students in the lecture rooms was very low. Even though the styles of teaching are not the same in all classes, I noted that in China, the teachers often demonstrated a skill by standing in front of the students. Then, the students are expected to copy it. This is very different in Australia, because teachers normally design skill developing exercises and then instruct the students to do them. As a result, students learn through interaction with other students as well as through their own initiatives. In Australia, our teachers are more of facilitators rather than instructors. I think the teaching styles differences are brought about by language differences. In an art class at Fudan University, I noted a big difference in Chinese and Australian approach to learning. For instance, students in china are encouraged to learn from others while their counterparts in Australia are encouraged to express their ideas regardless of whether they contradict the established thought. In Australia, we are continually expected to keep reinventing new ideas rather than focusing on the existing ideas.
Without a doubt, the study tour increased the depth and quantity of my knowledge concerning China. In terms of learning, I noted my ignorance with regard to how I perceive China as well as the gaps in my pre-existing knowledge, and the aspiration to redress such discrepancies by learning more. Prior to the study tour, I had by and large overestimated my knowledge about China and had extremely misjudged the learning gap required to achieve an elementary understanding concerning historical, cultural and social identity of China. As a result, I returned from China understanding the inadequacy associated with generalisations that obstruct crucial cultural differences as well as nuances. For this reason, I became very cautious about making naive generalisations with regard to China. I can attest that the learning during the study tour in China was a challenging process. This is because it confronted my pre-conceptions as well as naive assumptions concerning China and about my own identity as a student. My experience included disquieting engagement with the Chinese culture. Besides that, learning as well as accommodating these experiences was an interesting undertaking because I was expected to face and overcome all forms of personal discomposure attributed to engaging and encountering with different cultural as well as social norms. In my two weeks at SUIBE University and Fudan University, I noted that students at these universities were uncritical and passive, they depended more on memorisation instead of understanding. In their study, Smith and Smith (1999, p. 67) observed that Chinese students use a deep approach in learning as compared to students in western countries. Smith and Smith (1999, p. 67) further states that memorising by means of repetition behaviour related to Chinese students is a way utilised to develop and deepen understanding. I agree with Smith and Smith (1999) findings that memorisation used mostly by Chinese Students is not an end-point of the learning, but instead, it is part of the process for achieving understanding.
Interestingly, my learning about China culture motivated me to learn more about Australian society as well as culture. By engaging with Chinese students, I was able to use a referential cross-cultural comparison process, which enabled me to do cross-referencing about Chinese society and Culture with that of Australia. As a result, I was able to get new perspectives about my national identity and the significance of culture in the learning processes. Therefore, the study tour generated new areas of cultural mutuality as well as variance, and realised that it is illogical to presume that intercultural encounters will automatically result in an improved intercultural comprehension. During the study tour, I noted a considerable difference in the intensity, depth and nature of learning in Chinese universities, and how it is hard to accommodate the cultural differences between China and Australia. Personally, I can authoritatively say that the study tour was a life changing experience, which has resulted in a passionate and intense commitment to learn more about China. Importantly, there was no ‘cultural distance’ between my lifestyle and values and that of China because am a Chinese. But for Australians, there was insurmountable obstacle, which repressed their ability for learning, accommodation and cross-cultural engagement. This was normal because of the everyday differences between Australian and Chinese cultures. Still, I perceived there was a ‘cultural gap’ that was unbridgeable, which normally impairs people (from other cultures) ability to recognise or learn the learning opportunities offered by China. Normally, this results in cultural prejudices and stereotypes that weaken a person’s ability to enjoy the experience presented by the study tour.
In a study tour, every participant have a number of motives, but in spite of such priorities, many participants always desire to learn something new from the host country culture. In view of this, before the study tour, I had clear preconceptions concerning what to do, how I will communicate and where I will visit during the tour, but all these were based on plain, predetermined notions concerning the type of knowledge that I would acquire while in China. In spite of this, I noted that everything in China was experiential and complex than I had expected. Before their study tour, I had considerably overestimated my understanding about China and had disregarded the need for cultural familiarity. However, the tour confirmed that knowing about a culture is not easy or simple, and there is need for a multifaceted process to accommodate and engage with socio-cultural difference. When I first went to Australia I noted that the ‘cultural distance’ was very immense, and this as a result, impaired my ability to learn. However, this was not the case in China because being a Chinese I do understand some aspect of Chinese Culture; therefore, interacting, communicating and engaging with Chinese students at SUIBE University as well as Fudan University was easy. I noted that Chinese students are diligent and modest, and they value education so much. Even though Chinese students showed some poor learning strategies and motivations, they academically flourish and achieve higher levels as compared to Australian counterparts, particularly in science and mathematics. This proves that Chinese students’ use of memorisation is considered a crucial learning strategy and cannot be compared with rote learning. That is to say, using memorisation and understanding to learn can be intertwined. Besides that, teachers in China are authoritarian they expect students to be obedient and quiet while learning. In Australia, students are allowed to interact amongst themselves while learning.
Even though the hard work done by Chinese students is acknowledged, I noted that they were passive-obedient-students who rarely question knowledge communicated to them by their teachers. This proves that, activities in the Chinese classroom are normally dominated by teachers and students are not allowed to ask questions. I noted that the learning styles used by students in China are more complex as compared to those we use in Australia. After interacting with a few students from SUIBE University and Fudan University, I noted that the conceptions of teaching and learning are believed to be social-cultural context dependent. That is to say, learning conceptions in China is consistent across educational, cultural and social contexts. Given that I am Chinese, I thought the study tour offered me a good opportunity to build on my understanding about culture and how it affects learning. Besides that, I wanted to get more insight about China and how its educational system is different from that of Australia. What make China unique are the facts that teachers always structure knowledge step by step to enable the students build knowledge in a consolidated and systematic manner. Aside from absorbing knowledge transmitted to them, Chinese students also strive to closely interact with their teachers. I observed that, the majority of the students do not ask their teachers questions directly, instead they have to wait until after class so as to ask questions. In general, Chinese students cannot be considered as passive, but instead as reflective because the questions they often ask their teachers are thoughtful and have undergone sound reflection. In comparison to Australia learning style that is technologically enabled, Chinese learning style as I observed at SUIBE University focus more on the essentials. In Australia we are often told that good learning is normally associated with our ability to utilise deep approaches to learning and participate actively in classroom activities.
I have always desired to go back to China and be able to meet my friends, make new friends, and eat my favourite food. In this case, the China study tour provided me with this fantastic opportunity and the two week experience in Shanghai was incredible. During the study tour, every day to me was a different experience; I was able to further my understanding about the Chinese culture. I was able to visit a number of iconic Chinese landmarks in Shanghai such as Yu Garden, the Shanghai Museum, the Jade Buddha Temple, Chinese markets and the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Shanghai experience was priceless and it enabled me to put my classroom theories into practice. The trip was extremely valuable and offered me an improved understanding of Chines Culture and business practices since I was able to visit a number of organisations in Shanghai. I met new friends SUIBE University as well as Fudan University. The study tour surpassed my expectations and enabled me to understand the essence of improving my language skills require while in a different cultural context. Without a doubt, I can say that the study tour enabled me to gain new perspective about things not just because I have been to China; nut because I have experienced it and to some extent created a connection to the Chinese culture. Besides that, the study tour enabled me to learn how to appreciate my field of study and I was able to connect my field of study with Chines culture. The study tour was beneficial because it exposed me to many possibilities that are not limited to one culture or geographical location.
In conclusion, I have highlighted and discussed experiences and insights on my Study Tour to SUIBE University as well as Fudan University in Shanghai and I have explained how I learned from the study tour. I noted that adapting to new culture should be voluntary whereby the participants are expected to accommodate the new culture. I noted that there was big difference between Chinese and Australian Culture. In Australia, the students are allowed to question their teachers during the lesson, but in China this is considered disrespect and the students have to wait until the lesson is over so as to ask question. Still, what I learned during the study tour is multi-dimensional and had an effect on my personal identity. Therefore, the study tour in my view encouraged diverse instead of uniform outcomes. For individuals who are not from China, the study tour offered them an opportunity to directly engage with Chinese culture and society. In consequence, their understanding and knowledge and about Chinese culture and society inspired more analytical as well as critical approaches to their lives and encouraged further professional and personal development.
Smith, P.J. & Smith, S.N., 1999. Differences between Chinese and Australian students: some implications for distance educators. Distance Education, vol. 20, no. 1, pp.64-80.
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