By Denise Boston June 25, 2014
The motto of Zhejiang University is "Seeking the truth and pioneering new trails". My visit to Hangzhou, China this summer was certainly a pioneering journey that I am so grateful that I said yes to.
This was my first visit to China and I was delighted to present several lectures at Zhejiang University (ZJU) to psychology students, PhD candidates, and counselors. ZJU is located in the city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province. It is known as one of the earliest modern academies of higher learning established in China. Zhejiang University is a comprehensive research university with distinctive features and a national as well as international impact.
“I shared my current research study with Glide's Family, Youth, and Childcare Center (FYCC) as a way to demonstrate how we are fostering a sustainable effort at a local level to facilitate the social and emotional development of children living in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco.”
I spent the first phase of my visit with my host, Jianhong Ma, Professor and Vice Head of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. The first day on campus I presented a lecture on Community-Based Research. My presentation introduced a research approach which promotes the collaboration between higher educational counseling programs and community leaders in the design and implementation of research projects. I shared my current research study with Glide's Family, Youth, and Childcare Center (FYCC) as a way to demonstrate how we are fostering a sustainable effort at a local level to facilitate the social and emotional development of children living in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco.
The second day I presented a lecture on the "Tree of Life" a narrative strength-based approach developed by Ncazelo Ncube, a child psychologists from Zimbabwe. This training session introduced students to some of the key ideas that inform this therapeutic approach and then enabled everyone to walk through the process so that they better understand how to put it to practice in their own cultural context. Both lectures were well attended and sparked an interest in furthering their understanding of where community knowledge and university knowledge come together to solve contemporary challenges.
Professor Ma was a wonderful host and he created an opportunity for me to experience the beautiful sights of Hangzhou. Students in his program were my tour guides and accompanied me on sightseeing attractions such as the famous beautiful West Lake scenic area and the umbrella and fan museums. I also spent a wonderful day at the Longjingshan Tea Cultural Village for the ultimate tea experience. I traveled the Grand Canal, the longest, oldest artificial in the world, built by ancient Chinese people.
The second half of my visit entailed two full-day lectures on Narrative Therapy at the Mental Health Education and Counseling Center, which is located on the Zingang Campus of Zhejiang University. Professor Yihong Zhu and Dr. Zhu Waner, the director of the center, were incredible hosts who not only helped to beautifully organize my visit, but fully participated the entire time and created a cross-cultural translating experience that was a transformative moment for us all. All of the counselors and students created trees which illustrated powerful personal stories. This strength-based intervention approach invited participants to open a gateway into their interior landscape and to experience moments of deep intimacy with themselves and with their colleagues.
Before my departure, I wanted to visit a community center to experience the world outside of higher education. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time at a neighborhood community center with Ying Dang, Coordinator at San Francisco Bay Area ZJU. Her mom and the director of the community center took me on a tour and introduced me to two dynamic elder women who were responsible for the various activities they offer to the elders in the community, such as dance, tai-chi, and personal enrichment. Their drive and dedication truly represents community activism and scholarship.
This has been an enlightening experience for me and I am honored to have been at the forefront of the CIIA/ZJU faculty and student exchange initiative. Together, we have the unique opportunity to create cultural harmony - connecting people and ideas for positive change.