From Michelle Obama’s China Tour to Sweet and Sour Chicken

Michelle Obama recently traveled to China to promote educational exchanges.

On Weibo, the most popular Chinese social media platform, Obama’s outfits, places  she visited, interaction that she had with China’s first lady Peng Liyuan, were the most talked-about topics. Had I not been studying abroad in the U.S., I would  have been more interested in those lighthearted topics.

This time, I rather paid more attention to the real purpose of the trip. Obama called on U.S. students to study abroad in China, learn Chinese, connect to people there and understand more about Chinese culture. The message behind her calling must have a broader meaning — China is on the rise, and it’s important for the U.S. to learn about the country, its people and culture.

However, from a Chinese student’ point of view, it will be helpful for a better campus climate for international students at U.S. universities. More American students going to China means more cross-cultural understanding. After they return to the U.S., they are going to be more globally-minded and have a better sense of cultural awareness, which will improve future interaction between U.S. and international students.

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1,351 University of Iowa students study abroad during academic year 2011/12, according to the UI Study Abroad Statistics. Italy and Spain were the most popular destinations among undergrads. Only 3 percent studied abroad in China. With a large number of international students from China, while few U.S. students going to China, the educational exchange here is unbalanced.

There are of course some Chinese students who come to the U.S. just for a degree, not trying to learn about American culture. But most are trying hard to succeed academically and culturally. They come to this country half-way across the globe, at least stepped out with some degree of curiosity to explore.

It would be great if more U.S. students study in China in the future, so that when they come back, they would at least know that Sweet and Sour Chicken isn’t Chinese food.

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Documentary screening on Chinese citizen journalists on Feb. 20

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Poster for “High Tech, Low Life” (Source: IMDb)

Basically you would not be able to learn what real life is like in China from Chinese students at the University of Iowa — there are many extremely different Chinas.

On Thursday, Feb. 20, you will see one of the alternative portraits of China through a documentary screening held at the UI main library.

High Tech, Low Life” is directed by filmmaker Stephen Maing. It’s about journeys of two of China’s first citizen reporters. The film follows them as they travel the country, underreporting sensitive news and social issues, which could endanger their lives.

Media censorship in China is not a new topic. However, I found something interesting from the trailer — equipping themselves with cell phones, tablets and laptops, the two people reported sensitive issues throughout China with the risk of political persecution. Besides, the places documented in the movie is the part of China that I am not familiar with.

When I was exchange student at the University of Central Arkansas, my journalism professor stressed numerous times that there was no such thing called,”citizen journalists.” This statement has sticked in my head along with his think southern accent ever since.

No matter whether these two people are professional enough to be considered journalists, as a journalism student from China, I admire their courage a great deal.

I plan to go to the film screening, hoping to know better about a China remotely far from my own experience that I need to know.

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Film showing: “High Tech, Low Life”

Time: Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Location: Shambaugh Auditorium, the UI Main Library

Discussion with “High Tech, Low Life” director and showing of a UI student documentary on Chinese students’ experiences at the university

Time: Feb. 21 | 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Room 105, Adler Journalism Building