Impressions of America

Sun Wu-anSun Wu-an

Last winter, five faculty and administrators from Shandong University at Weihi came to campus (as part of our continuing exchange with SDUW) to observe how offices at UNK function in a regular American university business environment. They visited with UNK faculty and staff in positions similar to theirs at SDUW. UNK sends 10 faculty and staff to SDUW each summer to visit their faculty and to teach subject matter to SDUW students. SDUW sends us students as well. These faculty and staff exchanges have proven invaluable in building working relationships and understanding between the two institutions. Mr. Sun was one of our visiting professors last year from China, and the author of this issue’s installation of Campus Voices. He has written and sent to UNK Vice Chancellor Carlson, an essay reflecting upon his visit to UNK and America. Mr. Sun has endorsed this publication of his essay, as well as our American edit of it. For space consideration, this is the first half if Sun’s essay. The second half will appear in the next issue of Columns.

In Feburary, 2008, I got a chance to visit America. Perhaps 12 days was just a short trip, but I was still delighted at this news, for it wasn’t common for many people to have an opportunity to set their foot on foreign countries.

We first arrived in Washington,D.C. and we stayed there for about two days. We then went to Kearney to visit the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a sister university with Shandong University at Weihai.Visiting UNK was the main purpose of our American travel, so we stayed there for about five days. Our last stop was Santa Barbara City College. Time was short, but we were feeling a lot of emotion.

The first story I want to tell, is the story of the differences between the peoples of China and America.As is known to all, both China and America are big countries in this world.When we say China is big,we mean it has not only a large territory, but also the largest population in the world. In China, it seems that wherever you go, you will be very worried about living and working among so many people. But when we say America is a big country, perhaps besides its large territory,we especially mean it is the most powerful country in the world.As for population,with about three billion,America is much smaller country than China, which has a population of more than 13 billion.As Chinese tourists,we were very aware that there are far less people in America than in China. We seldom saw a crowded station, street or a shop, except perhaps Disneyland and Hollywood. But many of these people seemed to be from other countries, not America.

Another example of the differences is what I saw in airports. Many workers are older than those in China. Some of them perhaps are in their fifties or sixties. In China, flight attendants are mostly in their twenties, and not often over 30-years-old. I think it also shows work is less-pressured in America than in China.

So,when some American students, who were having a lesson about modern Chinese history, asked me what the main problem was in today’s China, I answered,“I believe China’s biggest problem is having the largest population in the world. I also believe that few people can imagine what having 13 billion people means!”

The second phenomenon worth mentioning is the memorial buildings to national heroes. Each of them occupies a large area of land, but we saw few visitors. In my opinion, having so many memorials is normal and significant. However, if there were so many big memorial buildings for national heroes or leaders in Beijing, I am afraid perhaps many people would regard them as personal cult.As for America, a so-called democratic country, it would be very interesting to know what ordinary citizens are thinking as they visited these places.

The third fact I want to emphasize is our American friends’ kind hearts and warmth to us.While we were visiting UNK, five of us lived in three professors’ houses.

Before we arrived in America, all of us were quite worried about this arrangement.We are not accustomed to living in others’ houses, especially in foreigners’ houses.We expected to feel very sorry for disturbing masters’ (our hosts) lives. Also,we were afraid that we wouldn’t feel at ease because of the different customs and habits between Americans and Chinese. But things didn’t happen as we thought. Our worry and tension were completely removed by our maters’ (hosts’) kindness, warmth and their true friendship. They not only took care of our food and lives, but also our customs and habits.We chatted together, enjoyed our meals together, drove for sightseeing together, sang and danced together– just like family members. All that they did really made us feel as relaxed and pleasant as when we were at home.

At the moment we had to depart,we felt so sad. I will never forget our last dinner together.My hostess, Dianne, is a very beautiful and kind woman, and she regarded me as her son, and I liked to call her Mum.At our meal I said to her,“Dear Mum, before I came here, I knew where my home was, and now I almost don’t know where my home is because of your kindness.” A few minutes later,Mum said as a poet with very deep feeling,“Everybody in this world is a traveler; we go here and there for our lives, and we always need a home to rest….”At her words, everybody’s eyes filled with tears. Continued…