NC Wesleyan College–With colorful jackets, backpacks, and the ever-present smart phones snapping pictures, the group of 14 students climbing out of a large white van appeared to be just like any other tour group that had come to visit North Carolina Wesleyan College. However, this particular group had traveled all the way from the Beijing area of China to explore the campus in Rocky Mount as they consider future plans to attend college in the United States.
On Monday, January 28, President James Gray met the group at the college Welcome Center as they began a full afternoon of activities that included a campus tour, classroom visits, interacting with current students, a basketball clinic, and dinner in the college cafeteria. The group included middle and high school students, as well as their adult chaperones.
The visit was coordinated by the Global Classroom Alliance (GCA) and NC Independent Colleges & Universities (NCICU) as part of an effort to build international relationships between educators and create learning opportunities for students. “We are really trying to link Chinese universities and North Carolina universities, as well as Chinese high schools and high schools here,” said Shijun Naour, GCA director of development. “Our goal is to provide a channel or bridge between the two countries.”
Wesleyan Vice President for Enrollment Bill Allen said, “I think it is important to build a global community here at Wesleyan for our students.” Although approximately 50 international students are attending the college, none are from China.
Allen said, “This visit was a unique opportunity. It is great that these students were here, because it gave them an opportunity to understand what the American education system can offer that is different from what they are experiencing in China.”
The relationship between Chinese schools and NC Wesleyan began last October when President James Gray and Allen were invited to join a group of 15 educators and elected officials on a 10-day visit to China arranged by GCA and NCICU. Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs, Edgecombe Community College President Deborah Lamm, and NC Representative Joe Tolson were also part of the group. The trip was organized to bring international learning, cultural exchanges, and business and agricultural opportunities to North Carolina and four cities in China.
The relationships between the Chinese and Wesleyan began to develop immediately. Just a few weeks after the American group returned, a delegation of administrators from Lishui University arrived for a campus tour. They visited classrooms and dorms and met with NCWC officials to consider a student exchange program or other possibilities for partnerships. These discussions are continuing.
“We are looking forward to developing a solid program and welcoming students from China,” Allen said. “In China, they will be in college classrooms with a large number of students on a huge campus. Our classes are small, personal, and supportive. I know they will have a good educational experience here.”
Naour said, “When the students come to Wesleyan, I feel like they get extra attention and the staff and faculty make them feel welcome.”
After visiting the campus, 16-year-old Zheng Zhi agreed, “Every person here at Wesleyan is very welcoming and kind. Here we can talk and interact with the teacher more. A lot of Chinese students want to come to America because of the freedom here. I am interested in coming to an American college, but right now I don’t have enough money. If I did have the money, I definitely would.”