It can be hard for some to be away from home during the holidays. But for Chinese International Students attending Missouri State University, the traditional New Year holiday is brought to them.
MSU is presenting a week of celebration and activities to usher in the Chinese New Year with events such as Peking Opera performances, tea tasting, Taiji (tai chi) classes, dumpling making, and traditional arts and crafts.
The International Program is dedicated to making Missouri State a home for the hundreds of international students attending school, and to many like Victoria Yung, it is.
“Every time I see someone wear the maroon color, I say like ‘Oh! I feel like I’m home!’ It gives me the feeling that I’m home,” says Yung.
Yung is an accounting major, and is part of the 2 + 2 program at MSU and its sister school in China, Liaoning Normal University. Jim Baker, vice president for Research and Economic Development, explains that with this program, Chinese students can choose whether to study at the school for two years to finish their college experience.
“Generally what happens is that students finish up their first two years there, and then about half of them transfer to Springfield to finish up their Bachelor’s degree in Business, and about half stay in China to finish their degree there.”
He adds, “That’s one of the reasons we have so many Chinese students on campus.” Baker says since 2000 this accredited program approved by the Chinese government continues to be successful in Springfield.
At her school back home, all of Yung’s classes are taught in English. She says coming to Springfield has given her a sense of what America is like.
“Before I got into MSU, I know the United States from movies or TV shows, and most of those are filmed in big cities like New York City or Los Angeles. But Springfield is kind of smaller than those big cities, but people are so nice in town and you get a chance to know everyone.”
Since her arrive, Yung has found her own place in the Missouri State University community through the on-campus ministry group The Vine, and she’s a member of the international business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.
The 2 + 2 Program is one of many offered by the International Programs office in Springfield. Baker says in addition to the campus’ Chinese New Year festivities, the university also hosts events year-round for other international students.
“We have about 1,600 international students from over 80 countries, and it’s a wonderful way to learn more about other countries and other cultures, and so we always get excited about the Chinese New Year celebration…but in the future we also have events about India, we have Latin American events, so we try to have events from different countries.”
The celebrations for the Chinese New Year kicked off Saturday with the 2017 Chinese New Banquet and Show. It featured a traditional meal, then a program full of Chinese music and a dance presented by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA). Two members of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago also joined attendees.
The performances, delivered mostly in Chinese, varied from traditional Peking Opera to Chinese pop music medleys. Towards the end of the program, Chinese students were surprised by a video from home with teachers and families wishing them a happy New Year.
Elizabeth Lee, a sophomore Speech and Theater education major, was among the spectators not originally from the Asian nation. Last summer she taught English in China for two months. After going to the banquet she believes it’s a great way to connect these different communities from around the world.
“I’m really glad that MSU is making an effort to connect with Chinese people, I really have fallen in love with China’s culture. It’s really different than American culture, but I think it’s really beautiful, and I think it’s really good that Missouri State is taking an effort to make their students feels welcome.”
Lee also believes that these events are good for the campus community. By having international students on campus and in classes, Lee says “it’s always nice to get that fresh perspective and to meet new people.”
American students at Missouri State University and at other area colleges can also get involved in the International Program. In addition to internationally focused extracurricular groups, students can take languages course general not offered on a large scale. It’s done through the Foreign Language Institute in Downtown Springfield, run jointly by the International Programs office and the Department for Modern and Classical Languages at Missouri State.
Baker says, “Economically it’s very difficult to offer a wide variety of languages because there are not enough students. So, we established a program where we could allow OTC students, Evangel Students, Drury Students, (Southwest Baptist students), as well as Missouri State students to take different languages.”
The languages they can learn at the FLI range from common ones such as Spanish, to what are known as Less Commonly Taught Languages, such as Chinese, Arabic, Russian, and Japanese.
In general, MSU’s International Programs encourages engagement between students from vastly different parts of the world to build understanding of others and community.
That sense of community is shared by Victoria Yung, who has taken on a common catchphrase since coming to Missouri State.
“Once a Bear, always a Bear,” she says.
Events for the Chinese New Year at MSU will be held from February 1st through the 4th, with a listing of events available here.