Creating Connections through Global Learning

Posted by Ian Corbin on

As a student, learning across the sea can be a different experience. Not only are you subjected to different customs and traditions, you learn a whole new way of life that counters your own. Things that may seem normal here, may be taboo there and vice-versa. Consequently, you are introduced to new learning connections that wouldn't be available otherwise. These come in the form of learning different things in new ways, and being introduced to new things in a brand new environment. 

It has been proved time and time again that learning in new environments can reinvigorate the way things are learned. My mother is the principal of an elementary school that has a sister school in China. I was pushed into a new area of learning which made it easier to learn about the culture, as opposed to just being told about it in a textbook. This way I got to see, smell, taste, and hear their culture. A culture that is being changed everyday, much like our own. We learned how to speak the language, how to eat their traditional food, and how to respect their customs and traditions. 

These traditions and customs are more prominent than I knew before the visit. I had taken AP World History and other history classes that spoke about China and the everyday lifestyle, but nothing could measure up to living and breathing it first hand. 

One may ask why this way of learning is important to the learning process. What they don’t realize is that being there first hand leaves a lasting impact stronger than any words on a textbook page. Textbooks tell how things are from an outsiders perspective looking in, but they don’t account for the other side of the story. 

In China they embrace every second of their history, good or bad. They don’t sugar coat the bad things like most American textbooks, they embrace it and try to teach their students how they can learn from the mistakes of the past. One of the most glaring things that American textbooks leave out is the importance of change to the Chinese people. Textbooks become quickly outdated, and this is best seen in the changes involved with China in its politics, culture, rules, and laws. This is a developing country that is slowly becoming developed and is moving away from its Communist past to a mixed economy that is not far from America’s. 

Another commonly held misconception about China is the role of communism. The country isn’t as communist as one may think. Yes, they do block most American social media, but Chinese social media is used by millions daily! American culture is also creeping into their life. From our clothing, to our music; I met teenagers who listen to the same music as me, and dress up like Westerners do. Movies like The Avengers and Pacific Rim have a huge Chinese market. The people in China are not as different from you or me as we may think. And none of us would know that by reading a one-sided textbook that does not reveal much more than a few historical facts. 

The largest constriction to the learning process was the language barrier. As a group we knew little Chinese, and we had a translator with us at all times. This translator helped translate our thoughts and communicate for us. However, there was one thing that was universal, our emotions. There are few things that are universal and anyone can understand, but things like laughing and smiling spoke to everyone. We each knew that we were happy in each other’s company. 

A simple smile spoke a thousand words. That was one thing that taught us more than any single lesson could, speaking one on one, smiling and laughing with each other. We asked personal questions about everyday life and about what they thought about Westerners and people in general. This helped us realize that all people are alike, and if we can break past our traditional point of view, we can learn a thousand new things. 


Ian Corbi is a recent graduate of Avon High School. Ian has grown up in Avon and has gone to Avon schools his entire life. He plans on attending Columbia College in Chicago to major in Film Production and to minor in Comedy Writing and Performance.


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