Penn State Behrend junior connects two cultures in words and photos

Like an educational MacGyver, Jinghua Liu has built a bridge between Pennsylvania and China using little more than a digital camera, Magic Markers, and Yahoo email account.

Liu, a junior at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, created the USA/China Photo-Question Project to generate cultural awareness and friendships between students at Penn State Behrend and the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Students at each institution pose for a photo while holding a white board on which they’ve written a question for their foreign counterparts to address; photos are posted and queries answered on the Internet.

Question topics range from the political (What do you think of the one-child policy? Do you Americans really think that you are saving the world?) to the everyday (Is your Chinese food better than American Chinese food? Do you eat hamburgers every day?) to the great global unifier Lady Gaga (Why do the Chinese like Lady Gaga? How do you like Gaga’s meat outfit?). Sample answers: “(One child) is a reasonable policy for now. But it needs to be changed in the future when the population is too old.” “I don’t like beef, but a lot of people (in the U.S.) eat hamburgers frequently. Probably not every day, though.”

Liu, a finance major and Guangdong native, found that photos are the key to the project’s success. “Photos show facial expressions, clothing and location; these are part of culture,” she said. “People are more willing to interact with visual media today. Photos drive attention quickly.” In coordinating the project, she said that she’s noticed that “American students come up with questions very quickly. Chinese students spend more time thinking because they want to avoid sharp issues. It might show that Chinese people are still reserved to some extent.”

“The Photo-Question Project was completely Jing’s idea,” Andy Herrera, director of educational equity and diversity programs at Penn State Behrend, said. “We worked together to determine the materials and support she needed from our office, and she hit the ground running.”

Liu said that she hopes the answers students provide to each other help diminish ethnic stereotypes and generalizations. “I want to encourage people to consider how Americans and Chinese think differently, and, in some ways, similarly.”

For additional photos of Liu's project, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6550615905/in/set-72157628515882849/

To see the USA/China Photo-Question Project questions and answers visit Photoquestion.net.

 

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Last Updated January 03, 2012