Jinan University: One of China’s Oldest

JinanstudentRyanRyan, one of my students at Jinan University in South China, loves The New Yorker. He is an avid reader of the publication because it is one of the few magazines that produces quality, long-form writing that is easily available in China. His fellow students agree. I don’t think many of my American students are subscribers to The New Yorker!

During the past two weeks, I have been teaching an advanced reporting class and a research course. Like my American students, their Chinese counterparts think I assign too much work. But they have come up with some interesting story ideas–several about immigrants to Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city with more than 13 million people. These immigrants include tradespeople from Africa, western businessmen and businesswomen, numerous Indian students, and rural inhabitants looking for jobs in the big city.

All told, I have 46 students for nine hours a week. They spend about 30 hours in the classroom each week–or roughly twice as much time as American college students. Each year, the class elects a monitor who serves as the representative between the students and the teachers. 

My courses are part of the International School, where all classes are taught in English. All of the students have studied English extensively through their K-12 years. During that time, each student takes an English name, and some are rather creative: Squirrel, Lucky, Vino, Mercy, and Miffy. Others are more typical: Willow, Catherine, Kris, and Sharon. 

Jinan University is a public research and comprehensive university of more than 50,000 students. It is one of the oldest universities established on mainland China, tracing back to the Qing dynasty (1644–1911).  Jinan University was the first university in China to recruit foreign students and is currently the Chinese university with the largest number of international students.

In 1927, Jinan National University was located in Shanghai. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the university was closed and its schools were merged with those of other universities. In 1958, Jinan University was reestablished in Guangzhou.

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