President urges students to learn outside the classroom

Shuyee Chen

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 “In this study tour, I did more than deepen my knowledge about Chinese civilisation. I also had the opportunity to chat with the President and listen to his views on culture and life. It was a very worthwhile and meaningful experience,” says Year Two student Wong Wai Wa from the Department of Mathematics. Mr Wong participated in the Shandong Study Tour, 18 to 31 May, a CityU Chinese Civilisation Centre (CCIV) summer course held at Shandong University in Jinan.

The course attracted someone else from CityU. Having received several invitations, the President, Professor H K Chang, went to ShandongUniversity at the end of May. In a tight two-day visit, Professor Chang met the 40 CityU students on a CCIV study tour, and exchanged views and ideas on future cooperation with members of the management and academic staff of Shandong

University. Professor Chang also gave a lecture — “The World 600 Years Ago -- the Backdrop of Zheng He’s Maritime Expeditions” — on 30 May.

A gathering with the students took place on 31 May. “Communicating face to face with students always helps me understand them better,” Professor Chang said. “I hope in future I can find time each year to visit CityU students on internship, exchange or study tours outside Hong Kong. Real education doesn’t take place only in the classroom. Sometimes it’s even more important to see the world beyond.” 

Historical and cultural cities  

CCIV started summer study courses on the mainland in 2001. The courses focus on teaching Chinese civilisation and history through field studies in well-known historical and cultural cities. Previous courses were conducted in Nanjing, Kunming, Suzhou, Beijing and Hangzhou. This year, Sichuan University in Chengdu and ShandongUniversity in Jinan were the bases for the students’ field work. Each group had 40 students and was led by two

tutors.

The President opened his informal 90-minute meeting with the students in Jinan by asking why they chose Shandong rather the Sichuan. He received a variety of answers:

  • “It’s because Shandong is the origin of Chinese civilisation…”
  •  “It’s because Shandong has TaiMountain, which ranks first among the mainland’s ‘Big Five’…”
  • “It’s because I can visit LakeDaming here. We all read about it in our textbooks when we were in secondary school…” 

A School of Law student suggested that the President visit TaiMountain at least once in his life. “Climbing the TaiMountain is a very special lifetime experience. It led me to the world of ancient poets,” he said. 

Sharing experiences 

Professor Chang was keen to learn about the students’ experiences and observations. One student said: “We often

see ShandongUniversity students reading or studying under the trees on campus early in the morning. Some of them listen to BBC programmes to improve their English. Compared to their diligence, I feel embarrassed. We normally don’t go to school until almost in the morning.” 

Another student said: “The campus facilities and general environment here are not nearly as good as those in Hong Kong. Eight students share one room. It’s also very inconvenient even just to get water. The limited resources here make me realize how lucky we Hong Kong students are!” 

In response to these observations, the President reminded the students that Hong Kong is one of the richest cities in the world. “We must continue to do well and must not let Hong Kong deteriorate,” he said.

Values and self-confidence

Lily Lam, a Year Two student in the Department of Accountancy, took advantage of the occasion and asked the President in English. “Our CCIV course is a required course for all CityU students, and every single one of us has to complete six credit units before he or she graduates. Although I personally enjoy learning more about Chinese culture, still, may I know why you made this a required course rather than an elective?”  

Professor Chang replied in English, using his own life experience to elaborate. “There are three reasons,” he said. “I lived overseas for 29 years. One reason that I’ve been happy and successful in what I do is because I know who I am. I never imagine that I will be anything else other than Chinese, so people respect me for who I am. But if I don’t know anything about China and Chinese civilisation, how can I show to other people that I am Chinese? How can I convince myself that I am Chinese?”  

Professor Chang also noted that knowing who you are and what kind of cultural tradition you come from is important for your self-confidence and self-esteem. “Everything you do has to do with your self-confidence and self-esteem. You can do a lot of things if you believe you can do them. Self-confidence comes from knowing who you are, knowing who your ancestors were, and knowing what your people will become.” 

The third reason is more practical, Professor Chang told the students. He argued that, everyone unconsciously has a set of core values, and we all do things according to our value system and our judgment. “I deeply believe that Chinese culture contains a lot of wise core values and philosophy, such as ‘taking the middle road (中庸之道)’ and ‘sweet follows sour (否極泰來)’. If you have taken some Chinese civilisation courses, I believe you will have a broader perspective about life. That broader perspective can make you understand your own situation better. You will have better ways of dealing with other people and will live through good times and bad times with dignity and a balanced mindset.”

In the course of their conversation with Professor Chang, many students expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Dr Lam Lup and Mr Puk Wing Kin, the Chinese Civilisation Course tutors who were the leaders of the group. To this, the President responded: “The care that teachers give to students is the real spirit of a university. And that’s exactly CityU’s greatest wealth.”


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