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SPAHP Chinese visitors take in food, music, Fourth of July

Visitors from Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine shared different soups and talked about China's soup culture during a recent program as part of the SPAHP China Summer Program.After two months in the United States and at Creighton University, 34 students and faculty members from five Chinese universities are starting to settle into their temporary homes and get a greater sense of life in these United States.

A big opportunity came during the Independence Day weekend, as many of the visitors took in the Kenny Loggins concert and fireworks show at Memorial Park, a major Omaha tradition. The students and faculty, all undertaking courses in physical therapy or occupational therapy in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, said they found the atmosphere electric, with especially high marks for those most auspicious of all Chinese imports: the fireworks.

“It was the first time I had been with so many American people in one place,” said Sophia Xiao, a senior student at Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Fuzhou. “Everybody seemed to enjoy the moment and shared their happiness with others and celebrated the festival together. In festivals in our country, we usually stay at home and spend time with family members, so it is unlikely to see so many people in the street. I really enjoyed the fireworks.”

Over the course of the past month, representatives from each of the institutions had opportunities to present some aspect of Chinese culture to their Creighton hosts. Topics included the Chinese zodiac with special attention to this year’s celebration of the Year of the Monkey, Chinese soup culture, traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese food.

The latter has been one the more playfully contentious issues among the visitors, as getting used to American food, especially American Chinese food has taken some interesting turns, all of them diplomatic.

“American food is OK,” said Even Yi, a faculty member in occupational therapy at Nanjing Medical University. “The taste of American Chinese food is very different from my hometown. But maybe I will miss the food here when I get back home.”

If the American Chinese cuisine is wanting, there’s still one thing the U.S. gastronomic market gets right — honing in on the sweet tooth.

“We have tried American Chinese restaurants but the taste is totally different,” Sophia said. “Chinese foods here are always too sour, too sweet or too salty. We Chinese people prefer mild flavor, but it’s OK, anyway. But the desserts here are really awesome. My buddy at Creighton took me to an ice cream shop in the Old Market to have a red velvet cupcake and peach ice cream — both of them excellent.”

Sophia added there’s also another American signature that has gotten top marks.

“We enjoy the chips here, too!” she said.

Outside of the culinary and social adventures, the Chinese delegation continues to soak up a wealth of experience and information on the academic side of their stay.

The group has learned about rehabilitation approaches with children and visited the Omaha Children’s Museum as an adjunct to the lessons.

Even said a splint-making course helped her remember the science and art of the ancient practice.

“Practicing this skill in the clinic is very popular,” she said. “We have an expert who can make individualized splints for all patients. It’s full of creativity and a practical skill to have.”

Watching students encounter new ideas in classes has also been edifying for Even.

“I hope the students can learn something new or deeper at Creighton,” she said. “For me, there is a Chinese saying: ‘Gain new insights through reviewing the old.’ Each time I review old materials, I have a new understanding and new ideas.”

The Creighton professors leading the Chinese students through courses have kept the material fresh and engaging, Sophia said, infusing classroom lectures and clinical situations with lively examples and variety.

“The colorful styles of teaching totally refresh my views of class,” Sophia said. “We all learn in different ways. Especially when the subject is children, it’s important to remember that the professionals should be more patient and funny. We are learning how to do this through our professors, all very splendid, professional, lovely people.”

The Chinese delegation also recognizes that they’re practicing a specific kind of diplomacy, as do their hosts at Creighton. On a recent trip to the Confucius Institute in Lincoln, Even said she was reminded of what it means to have this special interaction between students and faculty in the healing and restorative arts from two of the world’s largest and sometimes rivalrous nations.

“The head of the Confucius Institute said that people usually misunderstand each other due to lack of communication,” Even said. “And the cultures between countries can lead to misunderstanding. We love peace and hope we can understand each other through communication, and we also hope to welcome many people from Creighton to China soon.”

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