RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College has been continuing to expand its global impact by strengthening its partnerships with universities in China. The partnership includes student and faculty exchanges between Rio and its Chinese partners.
Within the first year of the partnership, the exchange has already expanded to include graduate students seeking master’s degrees. Li Xi, who goes by Olivia on campus, is a 2016 graduate of Baoji University of Arts and Sciences in Baoji, Shaanxi Province, China, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Business English and was awarded the honor of Outstanding Graduate. She first came to Rio from her home town of Shangluo, Shaanxi Province, China, in the fall of 2017 to finish her graduate studies through the newly re-introduced Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Integrated Arts. Li said she has enjoyed her time in the program.
“I learned about Rio’s integrated arts graduate program at Baoji, where I worked in the International Office. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about education in the United States as well as English,” Li said. “I was a little nervous at first, but this was great chance for me to study abroad and improve my teaching skills. My professors have all been very nice and helpful helping me learn to adapt to the class environment. Rio is a great school for international students because the teachers care about their students. Every student is important to them, and they will do everything they can to help you succeed.”
The integrated arts program rationale states that students who participate in the arts develop confidence, strengthen collaborative skills, and expand capacity for critical, interdisciplinary thinking. After her May 2018 graduation, Li will be staying at Rio through the summer to take additional summer workshop classes through her program. Li said the program has introduced her to new ways of teaching and interacting with her future students once she enters the teaching field.
“Education is very different between the US and China. In China, students take notes from the lecture and don’t usually ask questions in class. Here, there is more interaction between the students and professors. I’ve learned to be more expressive and really enjoyed getting to be creative with PowerPoint to introduce myself and my life in China to my classmates last fall,” Li said. “My experience with the integrated arts program has helped me gain more confidence. I’ve learned several new teaching and critical thinking theories I hope to put into practice when I begin teaching.”
While earning her degree this year, Li has also interned with the International Programs and Services department at Rio. International Programs and Services Director Dr. Eric Yang said Li has been a great and resourceful intern for IPS and is very focused on her classwork.
“Olivia is a smart student and a hard worker. She is diligent with her schoolwork, and is very kind, informative and friendly to guests on our campus. She has been a wonderful liaison to our partner schools in China. Olivia was already interning before I came to Rio, so she has been a big help to me this semester,” Yang said. “I can see she’s totally involved in her classes because she knows they will prepare her for her future. She is also a tutor in our Student Success Center for undergraduates and international students. I’m very proud of her and all she’s done here at Rio.”
Li is the first student from the Chinese exchange program to earn a master’s degree at Rio. She said she is still looking at options for her future career, including the possibility of teaching in Southeast Ohio.
“I’m so lucky to have had this opportunity. When I first came here, I would get a lot of questions about if I was homesick, but I never have been. Everyone at Rio treats me like family. I’d only been here a month, but my classmates and the students in my dorm surprised me with a birthday party, and that was really special to me. I’ve also enjoyed helping Dr. Yang in the IPS office, and want to continue introducing students at Baoji to Rio,” Li said. “I would love to be able to stay in this area to teach. If I do get a job in China, I will focus on teaching English at either a high school or university level. I had the opportunity to read with students from Rio Grande Elementary, and it was such a fun experience.”
Jessica Patterson is a communications specialist with the University of Rio Grande.