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Culture shared through penpals
Skylar Leatherman
Antelope Staff
Courtesy Photo
Teachers from Shijiazhuang, China, hold a UNK flag with Dr. Keith Terry and his wife, Lisa. The Terry’s spent three weeks helping teach English at the high school.

Students from UNK are sharing their lives with Chinese high school students through an e-mail pen pal program organized to share language and culture.

This past summer, Dr. Keith Terry and his wife Lisa spent three weeks teaching English at a high school in China. While in Shijiazhuang, they met 10 Chinese teachers who teach English at the high school.

The Terrys have gone to China to teach English seven times. Usually they spend approximately four weeks, but this year they spent three weeks in Shijiazhuang and three weeks in Weihai. In Weihai, they worked with university students.

While in Shijiazhuang, the Terrys worked mostly with high school sophomores and juniors from a school of 3,000 students. The Terrys taught approximately 220 to 230 students.

They spent time talking with the teachers before and after class. “They took us to see things around the city. We shared ideas of teaching English and languages,” Terry said.

Terry also said that the Chinese students were very curious about Americans and America. “The young ladies were appalled I had not seen ‘Twilight’ yet. They have read the books, and they’ve seen the movies online. One of the girls used ‘Bella’ as her English name while we were there.”

Students asked questions about holidays and living situations. In China, people can’t own their own land. They have houses they can own, but most live in apartments. They don’t see many houses with yards and were surprised to see that the Terrys owned their own home and lawn. Grass is a rare sight in China because of the tightly packed apartments to accommodate the growing population.

When the Terrys arrived home, they received a note from one of the teachers asking if there were any UNK students who would like to be pen pals with the Chinese students. The teacher wanted to get her students to talk to Americans and to establish stronger ties with another country.

Terry is glad that he can help students make connections with students across the world. “We as individuals can make the world better. We’ve got 35 ambassadors at UNK doing that,” he said.

Having this e-mail program helps students better understand people from other countries. “I don’t think we always get accurate information or complete information about people in other countries,” Terry said. “They don’t get accurate information about Americans or their own country. In China, the government controls the media. This is an opportunity for people to bypass a gatekeeper to interact. It’s one step to establishing ties or changing perceptions,” Terry said.

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