President Joseph F. Sheley greets a group of students from China during their visit to CSU Stanislaus.
Jerry Zeng is a third-year finance student with an infectious smile and — for a native of China making his first visit to the United States — a strong grasp of the English language. That smile was in abundance this week as Zeng discussed his observations of life in America.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “We always make everything so serious in our country. Having fun is important.”
Zeng is one of 13 students from Hubei University of Economics who are in the midst of a two-week stay at CSU Stanislaus, where they are living in the university’s residence halls and attending classes in finance and American culture and language.
The students, joined by two Hubei faculty chaperones, are also enjoying quite a bit of fun — from movie nights and shopping to a Modesto Nuts baseball game and trips to San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. They’re getting a full university experience, as well, working out in the Student Recreation Center and eating at the Warrior Grill.
“The environment here is awesome; there are so many trees,” said fourth-year student Kim Chen. “And the food — from breakfast to dinner, I’m full all the time.”
The visit is the start of what CSU Stanislaus President Joseph F. Sheley hopes will be a lasting relationship between the universities. Sheley and his wife, Bernadette Halbrook, helped develop relationships with Chinese universities during his time as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sacramento State.
Halbrook, then a professor of counselor education and associate dean of Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education, once led a yearlong program to bring tax accountants from Hubei province to live at the university and study California tax structure and bureaucracy. Sheley and Halbrook have visited several universities in the Hubei region and twice visited the Hubei University of Economics.
“They try to be global in their approach toward issues of economics,” Sheley said of Hubei. “We were fortunate enough to be able to link up with their university’s desire for its finance students to visit a California university and spend time both learning and expanding their cultural horizons.”
CSU Stanislaus is a desirable spot for many international students, Sheley said, and it’s a place with which the students’ parents can be comfortable. The university has a beautiful and safe campus, the surrounding community is friendly and welcoming, and the students are within an easy drive of the many attractions Northern California has to offer.
“It’s comfortable,” Zeng said of the university. “The people are very nice and friendly. They help us a lot.”
Sheley hopes the visit — which was managed by University Extended Education with help from the Office of International Education — goes well enough to lead to similar visits in the future. He also hopes more CSU Stanislaus students take advantage of opportunities to study abroad, which can provide unique cultural and educational experiences.
Those opportunities come from strong relationships with universities in other countries, he said, and from continuing to build a positive reputation for CSU Stanislaus.
“One of our challenges here has always been to get others to see who we are and how good we are,” Sheley said. “Universities wanting to send their students here and parents wanting to send their children here is a fairly affirming statement.”