Introducing China’s Media World to International Students at Hebei University

Posted by on Mar 9, 2013 in Academic Life, China, Hebei, Hebei University | No Comments

21:37 (UTC+08:00), 09 MAR 2013 | CHN BEIJING

Hebei Uni 2013 03 08 800

Yesterday saw me bring the world of China media knowledge to lesser-known parts of the country — outside the Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and ilk. And that, to me, was actually something I did with a lot of pride.

When I graduated, having gotten my PhD in summer 2012, my first priority was not to work up the ladder to an eventual professorship as quickly as possible, but to give back to the other 99%. Let’s face it, probably 99% of China does not have the terminal degree. So, to me, it was totally wrong that I should be ignoring them. As a matter of fact, I remained very much mute when I did my PhD studies simply because I didn’t want to “snob-ify” myself with the “Dr Degree”.

In the same vein, although people would vie for a teaching position in big cities a la Beijing or Shanghai, the rest of the country is left virtually untouched. Big metropolises such as the Jing win big on international teaching deals; minor localities just a few hundred miles away are left with nearly nothing. To me, teaching at Hebei University, in a part of China just 100 miles away from central Beijing, is probably the best thing I can do now in order to spread the knowledge like peanut butter — so instead of being forced to the capital for insightful academic commentary, I can easily bring it to your doorstep. As a matter of fact, I actually love doing this, because I can clock up my rail miles in the process (even if they don’t have a rewards programme).

I started teaching a class of seven students from all over the world today — they included students from South Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America, amongst other places. I made sure the class was as lively as possible and shied away from a fixed system of handouts and “100% PowerPoint presentations”. The course was rather long, at around 3-4 hours for the entire afternoon, but I made sure students benefitted by making the conversation go both ways. I do admit, though, that lecturing for this many hours obviously necessitated the quick Coke & toilet break, but as long as students were happy, I was happy.

The best incentive to get me there? High speed rail. The crew will now see me onboard every other Friday, taking the Beijing-Guangzhou HSR from Beijing West to Baoding East. And because different railway bureaus operate trains on the route, I can choose with whom to ride. Another big reason to go to Baoding — even if the trip does take a while.

The lessons, which started yesterday, also meant a chance to meet academic colleage Dr Ding Xiaozheng, an associate professor at the university. I snapped a quick pic as we headed into the main campus. I do, however, believe in quality over “glitziness” — so even if these aren’t the newest buildings, they’re still where the learning takes place. And that, to me, is key.