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UW Students Form Ties to China

September 2, 2015
young American men dancing within a circle of young Chinese men
University of Wyoming students, from left, Richard Bierman, of Gillette; Brendan Costello, of Montgomery, Texas; and Edward Ma, of Cheyenne, teach local Chinese students how to dance. UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages students completed charity projects during a study abroad to China this past summer. (Yan Zhang Photo)

Thirteen University of Wyoming students did more than just tour China this past summer -- they helped some of the region’s poorest families through a series of charity work projects.

UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages Associate Lecturer Yan Zhang created a unique opportunity for UW students to connect to China in a special way. After learning Mandarin Chinese for three semesters, her students are then eligible for a summer study abroad program.

This year, students worked with a local charity organization called One Heart Charity to travel to Xiamen, a major city on the southeast coast (Taiwan Strait) of China.

“Not only did we buy and bring some books and sports equipment, our students also helped the children from migrant families -- poor rural children -- put a short performance on stage in front of the public,” Zhang says. “The rewards came in the form of smiling faces and cheering children.”

The UW students also celebrated the children’s birthdays at a Confucius temple.

“The staff at the One Heart Charity was impressed and appreciative,” Zhang says. “Our UW group left feeling enthusiastic and more meaningfully connected to the lives of Xiamen locals.”

Another new project in which UW students engaged with the local community involved pairing them with street vendors to help sell various products at the night market. Students helped with a tea ceremony; sold decorative fans and umbrellas; set up a stand to sell chocolate-covered bananas; and helped customers at a shop that sold women’s clothing.

“This partnership was appreciated by the vendors and, in the eyes of the local Chinese, promoted a positive image of Americans’ attitudes,” Zhang says.

Service learning is a strategy that Zhang incorporates into her study abroad program. It is a teaching style that integrates community service with instruction and reflection.

“It results in stronger community ties and greater civic responsibility,” she adds.

Students on the recent trip were:

Buffalo -- Brian Schueler.

Casper -- Kip DeCastro and Kyle Wirth.

Centennial, Colo. -- Nathan Forest.

Cheyenne -- Edward Ma, Tyler Miller and Drew Newman.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Maiya Hritsick.

Gillette -- Richard Bierman.

Laramie -- Jared Egbert.

Montgomery, Texas -- Brendan Costello.

Ukiah, Calif. -- Daniel Janiak.

Valparaiso, Ind. -- Alexandra Sanchez.

The UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages offers a Chinese minor program. There are 24 students in the program this semester, including Schueler, the current Associated Students of UW president.

Other languages offered at UW besides Chinese Mandarin are Arabic, classical Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, English as a Second Language (ESL) and American Sign Language.

For more information, contact the department at (307) 766-4176 or email

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