Students from China mull Millikin

DECATUR — When it comes to recruiting students, Millikin University knows no bounds — geographically speaking.

Maxine Jiang and Karthus Zhang, two seniors at Northeast Normal University High School in northern China, say they want to go to college in the United States and that Millikin is on their radar. “Students in China don’t have so much time to do the things they really like to do,” Jiang said.

That’s one result of a two-day campus visit by a total of 20 people from the school as part of a partnership initiated by Nancy Gaylen, associate professor of education at Millikin.

The visitors included school Principal Liang Shi, four teachers and 15 sophomores, juniors and seniors. One reason for their visit was to catch up with two of the school’s teachers, who are spending the semester at Millikin and Dennis School. They are Xiao xiao “Jessica” Zhang and Hongmei “Nina” Xuan.

Their itinerary included stops at the university’s English Language Center and Richards Treat University Center for an International Month festival Wednesday and for a luncheon Thursday, featuring presentations by Chinese Millikin students about their campus experience and by Catherine Ming Tu on her time as an assistant professor of music.

Tu said she loves her life in Decatur, although she found it very different when she came to Millikin five years ago after graduating from the University of Miami (Fla.). “There is a loving Chinese community at my church, and people at Millikin would welcome all of you,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you (speak) good English or not.”

Liyang “Leon” Yu, 23, said Millikin’s professors have been there for him since he arrived two years ago to complete his education in physics and mathematics.

“There’s a cultural difference here, but that’s something you need to know in your life,” Yu said. “The moment I cherish the most is when I walked into the classroom, and the professor said the class has gotten crowded today. We had 15 kids.”

His remark prompted laughter from the visitors from China, where classes of 50 to 60 students are the norm by middle school.

Nursing students Shenchao “April” Shi, 25, and Yi “Alice” Gu, 24, also spoke. Shi pointed out that unlike China, America has tutors to help students with language difficulties and homework questions.

Gu said one of the biggest differences she encountered after coming to Millikin three years ago was seeing male and female students on the same dormitory floor. “That would never happen in China,” she said.

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