Chinese students studying at J-School this month

The School of Journalism is playing host this month to nine Chinese students, all making their first trip to the United States.

The students are studying journalism and languages at Shanghai International Studies University and will spend the next month on campus learning from UM professors and media professionals in western Montana. The exchange was organized by Professors Dennis Swibold and Clem Work and UM’s Office of International Programs.

The partnership began this spring when Swibold visited SISU to teach. Three of the group – Tang Jinglei, Lin Li and Zhang Kaiju – are graduate students who took the special two-week intensive course on the American Press and Politics this spring from Professor Swibold at SISU’s sprawling suburban campus. 

“It was great to see them again,” Swibold said.

In addition to studying American news practices, the students are taking in the sights.

They spent the Fourth of July on the Flathead Indian Reservation, attending the 116th annual powwow of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. They interviewed elders and dancers and shot photos and video for reports that will appear in SISU’s campus newspaper and website. Some even joined the dancers.

Lu Nan, a junior from Dongyang, a “small” city of more than 750,000 people in Zhejiang Province, said she was impressed with the Missoula Valley at first sight.

“When I got off the plane and walked out of the airport, the first word that came to my mind was ‘paradise,’ with fresh air, clear sky and green mountains,” she said. “Missoula is a peaceful city, and everyone here is willing to help, just like friends.”

A trip to Missoula’s Saturday morning farmers markets sealed the deal. “The big smiles and the welcome words when people learned we are from China touched me deeply,” she said.

The group has toured Glacier National Park and is scheduled to visit Yellowstone Park and the Montana state capitol building in Helena.

Each day, the students study stories from Missoula-area news outlets as a way to learn about issues important to the community and to improve their English. They’ll also study First Amendment law and journalism ethics.

Visits with Missoula’s Mayor and J-School alum John Engen and other officials are on tap, along with a tour of the Missoulian and a trip to watch the city’s courts in action. Their final week will be spent job shadowing professionals at Missoula’s newspapers, TV stations and Montana Public Radio. 

Only three of the students are from Shanghai. The rest hail from Anhui, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces. 

Zhang Kaiju, one of the three graduate students in the group, said many things have impressed her, including Don Anderson Hall, the Montana Kaimin and the senior projects such as the Montana Journalism Review. “(The students) get all the stories and pictures by themselves and operate the media themselves, and they do a really great job,” she said.

Another surprise, she said, are Missoula's Wi-Fi-equipped buses that also accommodate people with bicycles, baby carriages and wheelchairs.

“I found people in Montana are so nice and kind,” she added. “Whenever I get lost and ask people for help, they always help. People will always say hi to you, even if they don't know you.”

Montana’s natural beauty drew raves too. “The environment is great, and there are a lot of animals living harmoniously with human beings,” Zhang said. “I've never seen deer and so many squirrels, coming and going, before.”

You can follow the students’ experience at www.sisuinmontana.org.

- posted on 07/24/14 -