WEST LIBERTY - World travel was one of Joshua Smith's priorities when he transferred to West Liberty University from Marshall University in 2012. Thanks to the Summer Service Learning Program in China, a higher education pilot program, he was able to fulfill that ambition and take a step toward an international career.
A senior journalism major from New Martinsville, Smith was one of many students from across the nation who traveled to China and taught English in rural Chinese villages as part of the program.
Following a July 8 departure, a 15-hour flight took Smith to the Chinese capital of Beijing, one of the world's most populous cities. For four weeks, he received cultural and language training as he earned a three-hour International Studies course credit.
Matt Putmann, from left, Josh Smith, A.J. Scarborough and Krista Campione enjoy their time in China over the summer.
Among Smith's travel stops were the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta Army in Xi'an and the Temple of Heaven. He volunteered as a writer for a student newspaper and taught English to Chinese schoolchildren aged 11-18. He said the experience taught him a new appreciation for both the Chinese culture and his own English language.
"While teaching students, I learned how beautiful the English language is," Smith said. "The Chinese students spoke English very formally, and it was poetic and a neat learning experience for me."
Now that he's home, Smith said he plans to work on his Mandarin speaking skills, keep in touch with his friends in China and prepare to return next year.
"I feel very fortunate and appreciate the assistance from the state of West Virginia and West Liberty University, especially Beverly Burke," Smith said. "I was lucky to get the scholarship and it meant a lot."
Burke serves as senior administrative assistant in the Academic Affairs Office, coordinating many educational internship and study abroad programs. She said the Summer 2013 pilot program for the Summer Service Learning Program was a success likely to be repeated.
According to Burke, the new program is a collaboration between West Virginia State University, Marshall University and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission which she said is the governing body of all state colleges.
The program costs were $1,650, Burke said, not including airfare, which participating students had to cover. To help with the costs the commission provided $1,000 for each student. West Liberty University gave another $1,650, she said.
"The whole idea is to encourage all universities to promote study abroad programs and encourage students to think about going abroad," Burke said.