To the Editor:
In a recent column, Jon Miller criticizes my department’s FSP in China, suggesting it traps students in a “Dartmouth bubble” when they should be interacting with Chinese.
Mr. Miller is misinformed. Everything from informal social events to pick-up games of basketball leads to enduring friendships with Beijing natives. Furthermore, course work prompts interaction with shopkeepers, taxi drivers and restaurant owners. The program does not “trap” students in a bubble; it actively promotes interaction.
There are, of course, structural impediments to cultural integration. Mr. Miller calls for sharing dormitories with Beijing Normal University students. As academic calendars in the two countries do not align, placing Dartmouth students in regular dorms would mean displacing Chinese students already occupying them, surely a problematic approach. Mr. Miller also objects to separate classes for the Dartmouth students, but does not consider why a Chinese speaker would study the language with Dartmouth learners. In fact, both second language and intercultural competency improve most in programs that incorporate mentoring designed specifically for foreign students. See, for example, “The Georgetown Consortium Project: Interventions for Student Learning Abroad” (available online), a large-scale, multi-year study of programs like ours.
For a successful study-abroad experience, students need linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge. Most of all, though, they need the courage to leave the familiar and to engage the unfamiliar. That is the greatest challenge of all, and we will continue to work to nurture that attitude in our students.
Chair, department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literature
Japanese associate professor
To the Editor: