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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Chinese Connection at UMass Boston

The UMass Confucius Institute, the seventh of its kind in the U.S. and the first in the Northeast, was opened Nov. 20, 2006, to help teach the Chinese language, train teachers of Chinese, and help develop curriculums and cultural events, as well as to educate the community and provide a place of research of the Chinese language and culture.

“UMass does a lot with China,” Baifeng Sun, Director of the Confucius Institute, said. “After the Confucius Institute was opened, it created a more developed platform for connections to be made. Mostly, we do things to promote the Chinese language and culture.”

The Confucius Institute has played a little more of a behind-the-scenes role, teaching non-credit Chinese language courses, preparing training programs for Chinese language teachers and providing funding to programming such as China Today.

“The program was three weeks of instruction,” Weili Ye, professor of East Asian studies, said. “One week was spent here, and the other two weeks were in China. We went to Beijing and stayed there for the entire 14 days.”

She designed the program and had ideas of what she wanted to do-she teaches Modern China, and has been going back and forth for many years, during which she noticed a gap in what was going on in China and what people in this country get from the media. She wanted students to see both accomplishments and challenges and crises that China is facing, as well as the divide between urban China and rural China.

The group of students spent the night in a village about two hours outside of Beijing at the foot of the Great Wall. They experienced the primitive living of the village by staying in a peasant’s courtyard, eating at his house and visiting the village’s school.

They also visited a peasant girls’ school about an hour and a half outside of the city, which provides training for basic skills so they can work in a kindergarten or as domestic workers. A high school classmate of Ye’s who works for the school gave them a lecture, and they ate lunch and had discussions with some of the girls.

The students also spent time visiting the “usual tourist locations,” as well as [Incomplete.]

“People can be overwhelmed and impressed by urban China,” Ye said. “But I want others to have a well-rounded view of China. It took a lot of phone calls to make sure these students had that experience.”

At a cost of $4,000 for the three weeks, the Confucius Institute sponsored the three-credit program, which Ye hopes to run again this summer. It involves two academic prep courses and a meeting on logistics. The students had to read books and write a paper, as well as seven journals while in China, and a final journal upon return.

“There is plenty more for people on campus to know,” Sun said. “Some don’t know what we do. Right now, we’re playing a [critical] role as a bridge between here and universities in China, and China and the U.S. We want to serve more and have more people know about our programming, and to let people know the real China, not the propagandist China.”