Chennoa Tracey recently participated in the Aboriginal Student China Study Tour.

Culture connections

A new program supported by multiple units on campus hopes to promote cultural identity among Aboriginal students while exploring Chinese culture and language.

The Aboriginal Student China Study Tour is a partnership between the Confucius Institute, the International Student and Study Abroad Centre, and the Aboriginal Students’ Centre. From June 4-19, a group of 20 students and two staff members travelled to Beijing and Xi’an, China.

Chennoa Tracey heard of program through an Aboriginal newsletter. The opportunity to experience a new culture and learn a new language was appealing to her.

“As an engineering student, we don’t really get that, except for a humanities elective,” she said. “We have very little travel opportunities as well.”

The group visited universities and elementary schools while learning conversational Mandarin—a continuation of the language classes the group had to take for a month before the trip. “It was intensive,” she recalled. “When we got there, we actually got to use it.”

Near the end of the trip, the students also took the Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì (HSK), a standardized test in China that ranks non-native speakers on their language skills.

As an engineer-in-the-making, Tracey enjoyed touring the technical institutions and learning about the engineering programs on the other side of the globe. She also acknowledged the influence of technology in Chinese primary schools. “Kids in Grades 4, 5 and 6 start learning robotics at an early age,” she said. “It’s part of their curriculum, which I thought was fascinating.”

The experience also helped Tracey, who is Métis, connect with her own Aboriginal heritage. “We had some people who were treaty and some who were not full status Indigenous,” she said. “I got to see different kinds of Aboriginal groups as well as the Chinese culture, so it was good for me in both senses.”

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