On Friday, January 27th, the Chinese Program celebrated the Lunar New Year with 160 high school students from six different schools, all of whom are learning Mandarin Chinese. Margaree Coleman-Carter, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students of MSU, and Shihong Zhang, the President of New Jersey Chinese Teachers Association kicked off this first-ever event with welcome remarks. The guests then enjoyed a variety of amazing Chinese cultural performances, including musical presentations, a Chinese yoyo demonstration, and a Sichuan Opera face-changing show.
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For the following hour and a half, the crowd circulated around the Student Center Ballrooms and had the opportunity to visit tables with various activities. Some of the activities were modern, such as a game where students competed with each other to see who could pick up more M&M’s using a pair of chopsticks in under a minute. Some were more traditional, such as the sugar painting station, where students used a spinner to randomly select a Chinese zodiac animal for an expert to draw. Some of the other tables featured Chinese calligraphy, Mongolian milk tea, paper cutting, an abacus, Chinese yo-yos, Chinese pinch pots, a ping pong challenge, and Chinese tongue twisters. Once the high schoolers had visited at least five of the stations, they were rewarded with a small prize. The guests tasted Chinese cuisine before boarding their school buses with full stomachs and smiles on their faces.
When asked about the event, a Political Science senior and Beginning Chinese II student, Jean Horton, stated, “Volunteering at this event was a very enriching experience. In general, it was very nice to see the high school students, my peers, and all the teachers smiling and enjoying the event. When we participate in events like this one […] we get the chance to engage with and witness aspects of a culture that is not our own, which makes us more aware of that culture. This awareness brings acceptance of cultural diversity, as well as giving us an opportunity to reflect on our culture.”
The six high schools that visited the campus were Glen Ridge High School, International High School in Paterson, Mahwah High School, New Milford High School, Old Bridge High School, and the Pingry School. The event was co-hosted by the Chinese Program in the Department of World Languages and Cultures and the New Jersey Chinese Teachers Association.
Story by Political Science senior and Beginning Chinese II student Jean Horton