Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU, Chinese students study abroad as part of partnership

March 7, 2012

When Ethan Wilkinson learned that his housing plans had changed, the reason piqued his interest.

He was one of eight students from Indiana State University who studied last semester at Liaoning University in Shenyang, China. Five students from Liaoning are spending the year studying at ISU in a student exchange as part of the longstanding partnership between the two universities.

Wilkinson, a senior from Anderson who is majoring in packaging and engineering technology, first learned of the program through an informational e-mail sent to students. He began to seriously consider studying abroad in Liaoning once he learned one of his friends - and potential roommates - told him that he planned to participate in the trip.

"Obviously, if he was going to go there, I wasn't going to be able to room with him, and it was something that had been on my radar. He started thinking about it, we started talking about it and thinking about it a little bit," Wilkinson said. "One of our other friends got into it as well, we were all seniors, and somehow it just started working out."

For Wilkinson, the trans-hemispheric travel was the first time he flew on an airplane. Once there, the ISU students enrolled in several classes taught in English, including a course about Chinese culture and a class teaching the Chinese language.

"I always had thought it would be beneficial and exciting to study abroad," said Aubrey Hancock, a senior accounting major from Vincennes who participated in the exchange. "I liked the idea of being part of the first group of students to go, I liked being able to go in a group setting, and I thought going to China would be a very unique experience."

Hancock also wanted to learn more about business relations with China. Liaoning University provided for a two-day culture trip, which included stops at multiple stops and cities. Hancock even met a friend she knew from her hometown, who was also studying abroad, during a visit to Shanghai.

"All the Chinese faculty and friends I made while in China were so hospitable, and generous with their time and resources," Hancock said.


Several groups of ISU students and faculty members toured Liaoning University in the past, though those were for shorter durations. With the student exchange, the ISU students lived in China for four months and navigated their way around a campus, country and culture vastly different from their own.


"The benefit of a semester is that once they get there, they really get into a routine," said Janis Halpern, ISU director of academic programs abroad, "and they get into a routine where they have to adapt to another culture and learn how to function successfully somewhere that is outside of their comfort zone."

Students from Liaoning also have been experiencing life at ISU. Hongyu Guo, one of the students studying at ISU this year, adjusted to the courses and the American lifestyle. She met other ISU students, and now regularly goes out and visits with her friends on the weekends.

"It's very fun. I enjoy the life," Guo said. "It's a different cultural experience, and I love to see the differences, and the thing I love most about Terre Haute is the people here are very nice."

Liaoning exchange student Fanchao Meng lives in Shenyang. He wanted to study internationally, and was interested when he learned about the student exchange with ISU. While he is an economics major, he also took advantage of the different courses offered at Indiana State, enrolling in a class about recreation and sports, one of his interests.

He also has enjoyed learning about various aspects of American culture, from people's mannerisms to American food, and even the U.S. take on Chinese food. He has met other international students studying at Indiana State, and has even helped to create some programming at ISU, including this year's Chinese New Year celebration.

"This is the first time I have studied abroad, or even traveled abroad, so I knew that this program would let me see other aspects of the whole world, because if you travel that long, the culture is different, the way that people behave is different and the food is different," he said. "So I was sure that I would enjoy some new things."


Students from Liaoning and Indiana State both noticed the difference in teaching styles among the professors at the universities. Wilkinson noted that students attending Liaoning typically will take more courses per semester than students attending Indiana State. Several students also noticed that at ISU, professors assign more homework and quizzes throughout the semester than their counterparts at Liaoning.


"But here for classes, you have a lot of assignments, teamwork, team meetings, group meetings a lot," Meng said. "It's cool, because students can make full use of their daily time. Professors do not want them to waste their time."

Though the students studying abroad have relished their experiences, they each encountered complications from living immersed in a culture different from their own. The students studying at Liaoning University were the first group of students to study for an entire semester as part of the agreement between the two universities.

"We want more students coming to the university because we think China can be a place full of possibilities...," said Zhang Yang, who works in the international exchanges department at Liaoning University. "I've met many Americans that they never thought they could study or live in China, but when they come, they love it, and they decide to work, live, even get married in China."

Hancock found that fewer people spoke English in China than she initially anticipated, though it ultimately didn't affect her opinion of the trip.

"I didn't set too many expectations on how it ‘should go;' instead I went into the trip with an open mind, ready to experience whatever was thrown my way," Hancock said. "I expected it to go well having this attitude, and it definitely went well!"

Students from both universities learned from their experiences. Guo lives in Shenyang, and so she would frequently return home for the weekends while studying at Liaoning University. Yet she has enjoyed studying at ISU and living in the U.S., which helped her learn more about herself while living so far from her family.

"It's a good experience," she said, "and I think if I didn't come to America ... I wouldn't know what kind of person I am."

Photo: (Submitted photo)
Indiana State University students among a group that visited sites during a cultural trip in China. Eight ISU students spent the fall semester studying at Liaoning University as part of the longstanding partnership between the two universities.

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes)
Liaoning University student Fanchao Meng, who is studying at Indiana State University this year as part of a student exchange between the two schools, and ISU President Daniel J. Bradley participate in festivities that were a part of the Chinese New Year celebration at ISU. Meng helped organize the event that was sold out and attracted nearly 300 people to join in the celebration.

Photo: (Submitted photo)
Indiana State University students Zack McAdams, Ethan Wilkinson and Ryan Teppen pose at a site in China. The three were among a group of ISU students studying at Liaoning University last semester as part of a student exchange between the two institutions.

Contact: Chris McGrew, director, Office of International Programs and Services, 812-237-4391 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or