The West, seen from China, has been seen as uncultivated Barbarians, then colonizers, capitalists, and now bullies not willing to give an uprising country an equal chance. We tend to see others as representatives of nations, of national cultures. And «culture» became a concept we use to classify people in an essentialist way: born in a specific place means having been imposed inevitably the nation's culture and by this a core unchangeable identity. The recent trend toward nationalism
and isolationism even enhances these nation-based walls set up against one another.
«Students meet Students 2019», however, tells a totally different story: every one of us is first and foremost an individual with her or his unique history. Instead of asking each other «where do you come from?», we should ask «what's your story?», «what are your hopes?». On August 26th, twelve students and two teachers from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons met students and a teacher from SUES, the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons partner university in Shanghai. Following you find statements and photos about these memorable twelve days during which a community was built, which made foreigners to become friends.
By becoming friends, we also became more self-assured and made the experience that, wherever you meet others, it is the commonality not the differences that dominate, if we are interested in each other. Mindy: «For me, that was really an amazing program. I never had such an opportunity to communicate with students from other countries. Even though it was demanding, all in all it was very interesting! I could make a totally new experience! It taught me how to be a leader or how to deal with different situations. Such kind of culture communication, I hope I can have another chance to attend it again. This is a successful program！Thanks for cooporation with Swiss students.»
The best way to make foreigners becoming friends is to cooperate with them, to, first, treat them as equal to us, second, treat everyone as unique, third, provide support if needed, and, last but not least: focus on the common good, on the shared future. The relationships built already show a lasting effect. Some of the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons-students will meet with SUES-students currently in Chur to show them parts of their lives. Ho-Yin (DBM, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons): «We would like to accompany the students like their SUES-friends accompanied us.»
In my view, this first exchange was a success. Many things can be improved and will be improved the next time. But the experiences made make me long for more opportunities to get to know the realities of individuals I don’t know yet. I learned so much about myself, about the ones travelling with me and the ones who hosted us so generously. And, most importantly, I learned once again that I have the chance to learn endlessly.
Thanks to the team of SUES for all their work, their generosity and their kindness! And thanks to the
University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons-team for being open minded and willing to share.
Eric Dieth, Lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons & SUES
Kunqu Opera Museum in Suzhou
Next stop: Shanghai
by Jennifer Piton (MMP, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons) & Nicole Meier (TOU, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons)
Shanghai, the biggest city of China where the modern and traditional, the western and oriental culture
meets. Modern skyscrapers are built next to historical temples and draw together the unique skyline of Shanghai. In this city one can find the western customs combined with Chinese traditions, that makes a stay unforgettable. Could there be a better place for a 10 days study trip for a group of 12 students and two lecturers from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons?
As part of their studies, students from our partner university SUES in Shanghai had to organize a travel program in order to give access to the Chinese culture and their daily life. For those 10 days in Shanghai they have been our tour guides teaching us about Chinese history, customs and traditional habits. After a 12 hours flight from Zurich to Shanghai the program started with a warm welcome at the university where we got an introduction into Chinese culture. Furthermore, we had to prove our skills in eating with chopsticks and had the opportunity to write Chinese letters.
Our timetable during the trip was tight, every day was fully packed with new impressions and adventures. On one side we were able to see the traditional China in gardens like the Yu Garden or The humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou. Furthermore, we had a short cooking class where we learnt how to make dumplings ourselves. Another highlight was the day trip to the water town called Wuzhen where we could see people’s daily life as well as their work. In small presentations about the attraction visited the SUES students gave us insights from the local perspective. Besides learning how to cook dumplings, we also got taught in how to act in a Chinese opera with traditional clothes and show our skills in Chinese painting.
On the other hand, we also experienced the modern part of Shanghai. «On one day we left Shanghai with a highspeed train to visit Hangzhou. During the ride I didn’t even realise that we changed the city. These two cities are so enormous, there is nearly no green space between them, like we know it from Switzerland.» (Patrick Huber, Sport Management, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons) In Shanghai itself we discovered the view from the Shanghai TV tower and got educated about the Chinese history and the country itself in the Shanghai museum. Not to forget the visit of the SUES university, which differs to the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons in any aspect. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see how the Chinese student’s life looks like and get an insight into some labs as well as classrooms. In order to get an insight into the Chinese business market, we had the chance to visit «Homevalley», which is a company that supports Start-Ups. In those 10 days in Shanghai we got so many impressions about China, but to present everything would blow up the limit of this blog. «I will have many memories from our trip to Shanghai. Above all, I will remember the interesting conversations with our Chinese colleagues and the generous hospitality. I will definitively come again.» (Stephanie Lippuner, BÖK, University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons)
On all days, the hospitality shown to us just rendered us speechless. The Chinese way of eating is different than in Switzerland. They not only eat everything with chopsticks, it is also normal to order meals, put all of them in the middle of the table and share it with everyone. Therefore, we were able to taste all kind of traditional Chinese food. Every day we felt like VIP’s and the students read every wish from our lips. In the beginning, our fellow students were quite shy and unsecure, especially because their English is not that good. Nevertheless, all of them made a huge step forward over those 10 days and they got the courage to just speak and tell all the stories and information they researched. The farewell party at our last evening was the finishing stroke to our study trip in Shanghai or as Jannik Maier, DBM, says: «A memory I will always keep in my heart was the farewell party our hosts threw for us on our last evening together. We had an unforgettable evening at a restaurant overlooking Shanghai‘s iconic Huángpǔ River with intercultural chats, great food and magic tricks.»
All in all, it can be said that the time we had in Shanghai was truly memorable or in the words of Ho-Yin Lam (DBM student from Switzerland) «Experience on its finest». Not only because we were able to
encounter Shanghai with all its faces. More important is the fact that we could enlarge our knowledge about the Chinese culture and its history. During our stay we were able to get to know this country through the eyes of local students. «Exploring Shanghai, it's surrounding and Chinese culture with locals is definitely a privilege I don't want to miss out. With every day, cross-cultural encounters with our lovely and caring hosts from SUES became more meaningful. Looking forward to keeping up this growing friendship between China & Switzerland.» Lena (Madeleine) Kaiser, Master New Business
Wherever you are, I remember you
by Yolanda (Zhang Yi: 张怡)
Pudong Airport, August 26, 2019 – we meet the students from our Swiss partner university
the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons. We will host them for ten days and hope to show them our lives, our world, to tell them our stories and to hear theirs. How different and how similar will these Westerners be?
We cruised on the Huangpu River, saw Shanghai Tower, the third highest building in the
world. Lots of old, famous buildings along the Bund from the time Shanghai was colonized
by the West. How amazing the night view is! I learned that in Switzerland there aren't that
many skyscrapers. However, regarding pristine nature, Shanghainese will probably be pleased
We visited gardens in Shanghai and Suzhou, gardens reflecting Chinese philosophy, idealized
landscapes standing for a given harmony between human beings and nature. Fake mountains,
ponds, plants, constructions, carvings are the main ingredients in a small artificial world. As I
was told, even though in Switzerland there are man-made parks, most of the hills and
mountains aren't fake. According to the students, you almost can see the mountains
everywhere, fresh air, clear water and blue sky! Different worlds.
Unique and the same
Fourteen Swiss and thirty-three Chinese came together. As we could note from the first
moment on, every person is unique. And each of us is an individualist spot on a piece of
paper, spots that can be connected for example through language. Although sometimes we
have difficulties to express ourselves, especially in a foreign language, there are many ways to
communicate, to share, to learn from each other: verbal and nonverbal behavior, artistic
expressions, laughing, sharing a meal, helping, protecting. The longer we were together, the
more I realized that I was able to express my thoughts and to be understood. Increasing selfassurance led to more and better communication.
On the fourth day, just for fun, I called myself Johanna the tour guide from South Korea.
Playing with my identity, trying to create similarity, the next day I was a farm-girl from
Switzerland. Asked, what my name was, I couldn't answer, which is why my friends called
me «Heidi». They introduced me into the story of Heidi everyone in Switzerland knows. From
then on being called «Heidi» made me a part of their world, a member of a shared community.
Even though I can't speak Swiss German, I felt very close to them and we discussed about
everything. Over time, the former distanced-timid relationship had morphed into a friendship,
because we connected with each other's world and built up trust. Although Chinese often say
«Europeans and Jews do not readily assimilate», this experience showed me that the important
thing is the truth you can feel in your heart.
Happy times are always short-lived. This ten days trip feels to me like one day. I still
remember the moment we first met at the airport. Fortunately, and hopefully, it is not ending
for us, it is just beginning.
Wherever you are, I know you.
Wherever you are, I remember you.
Wherever we are, we care about each other.
Brand new Experience
by Daisy Huang 黄欣懿,Lecturer at SUES
It is a very wonderful memory having been with all of you. Shanghai is my hometown. During the 11-day student meet student program, I reacquainted Shanghai from a new perspective, which was a brand new experience for me.
From my perspective, I observed how SUES students and Swiss students communicate with each other, as well as how Chinese and Swiss students deal with different things. Cultural differences and language barriers were the biggest challenges.
Compared with Switzerland, Chinese people tend to work and rest earlier, especially for lunch and dinner. We don't have the habit of coffee break (although we do like coffee). Sometimes Chinese students are really tired and want to rest in the afternoon, due to the restaurant's business hours and there is a time limit for restaurant reservations, which is why the time of lunch and dinner is a little bit earlier than expected. SUES students did a great job ordering the dishes and asked for restaurant advice. There are too many kinds of Chinese dishes, mainly stir-fried dishes, maybe a little bit too oily for Swiss people. Next time we can try a bigger variety and different styles of food.
Speaking English is the biggest problem for SUES Students, especially when guiding the group and
introducing scenic spots. Fortunately, Swiss students were very tolerant and trusted their Chinese
counterparts. I’m really appreciative for their patience. SUES students' language and social skills and their organizational abilities have been greatly improved. While spreading Chinese culture to Swiss students, Chinese students have deepened their own understanding of Chinese culture.
Thanks for all the students from the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons and SUES. We have made a big step forward. Chinese students cherish the new friendship very much and hope to see you soon again in Shanghai.
Eric Dieth (Lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons and SUES),
Jennifer Piton (Multimedia production student at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons)
Nicole Meier (Tourism student at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons)
Yolanda, Zhang Yi: 张怡 (Student at SUES)
Daisy Huang 黄欣懿 (Lecturer at SUES)
Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos. Sounds very interesting.