By Amanda Nash, Contributing Writer

With the launch of Asbury’s “Confucius Classroom,” the Global Engagement Office (GEO) offers new platforms and resources for students and community member to engage with the Chinese culture and potentially attract more international student onto campus.

The “Confucius Classroom, a five-year partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Confucius Institute (CI), provides Asbury with an annual $10,000 of funding, academic guidance from Chinese scholars, and additional opportunities for study abroad.

The GEO plans to use this year’s funding in order to renovate an office for the Chinese Language Department as well as host numerous programs such as monthly seminars and seasonal festivals that will be held in the library and open to the public. Some festival students should expect to see next year include a Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year.

Asbury’s visiting Chinese scholar, Zhang “Joy” Wei, has already begun teaching two new Chinese courses at Asbury: a Chinese language course and a class on Chinese culture. At this point in the semester, Zhang’s Chinese culture students, have learned how to cook dumplings, attempted to write phrases in calligraphy and studied preliminary Chinese history.  By the end of the semester, Zhang claims her Chinese language students will have learned 500 words. Zhang has enjoyed teaching students “who study because they love it” and hopes her students feel “welcome to come to China to experience the real lives there.”

Asbury’s “Confucius Classroom” will also carry on its educational efforts during the summer. This summer, two Asbury students will be selected through UK’s Summer Scholarship Program to travel to Shanghai University in China alongside six UK students for a four-week language course. Meanwhile, the program is also developing a week long summer camp program for elementary and/or middle school students. In addition, the GEO is in contact with the Providence School and hopes to implement one or two cultural showcases in the high school’s upcoming school year.

Tina Wei Smith, the director of the GEO, hopes that the development of Chinese cultural literacy will attract more intercultural students. The GEO has been working for the past three years on reaching out to international students and building a base in East Asia. Asbury continues to develop relationships with private, Christian high schools within the Pacific Rim with the intent of attracting more Chinese students to Asbury.

“If we are so interested in bringing them here, we need to be interested inthem,” she said.

While the “Confucius Classroom” could be the catalyst to kick-starting a Chinese Major, Wei Smith says it won’t happen without financial support from the Foreign Language Department and the enthusiasm of students.

“The seeds have already been planted,” she says. “But we need students saying to the Ancient and Modern Language Department, ‘We want to learn Chinese. We want a major or a minor out of this.’”

With approximately 1.2 billion Chinese speakers in the world, exposure to the Chinese language and culture allows students to communicate and interact with a huge and influential nation in our world, allowing for practical, business relationships to be formed or for ministry to further the cause of the Gospel.