Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

FunChinese is a project aiming to connecting people with complementary language skills to share with each other. Through the physical interaction, people begin to gain not only languages but also the knowledge of another culture. More importantly, participants get a natural familiarity with a group of people rather than a single one. And further, this will bring a sense of involvement in the larger community, and more open to new things that one encounters as a new-comer.

Boston has become more and more international. In particular, from 2000 to 2010, the Asian population in Boston multiplied by 1.6. Not only do they represent a minority group of people but also they bring different cultural backgrounds.

Among the growing Asian population in Boston, international students represent an important group. In the Graduate School of Design, there are 327 international students from 56 origins, which accounts for 39.8% of the 821 students. Among these students, more than 150 are from Asia, mainly China and South Korea. Since the cultural background and mindset of Asian students are fundamentally different from the western world, it is hard for them to adapt into the life in the US.

Some Asian students felt reluctant to speak or make friends. Not because they don’t have the ability to communicate, but because of a natural insecurity in a new environment. On the other hand, international students tend to stick much more to people from the same country.

As the number of international students continues to grow in the GSD and at the larger Boston area, it becomes important to help them better and faster adapt to the new environment. This will benefit international students, and also bring a more healthy and active interaction between all students.

FunChinese takes language as a tool to connect people from distinct backgrounds. Language influences the way different people see the world. It is also a door through which we begin to understand the core of a culture, its ideology as well as deeper meaning. Through the sharing of one’s own culture, students become more open to communicate with peers and thus building a more healthy connection.

International students come from a different culture and are able to bring a diverse insight in a discussion. Especially students from countries like China, South Korea, where there are many developments happening, this cross-cultural interaction could lead to professional practices.

Taking Chinese as starting point, FunChinese takes action by involving students with a Chinese background with students who have interest in Chinese language or Chinese culture, through the form of group meeting and one-on-one interaction. The project starts in the small community of GSD, and then grows in collaboration with the School of Engineering. In the whole process, this project has received highly positive support and response from participants and school directors, and is aiming to continue and expand in the next year.

By contributing to the community, members have benefited from a cross-cultural exchange. Through the weekly interaction, American participants have got the chance to know more about Chinese culture; Chinese participants have been able to engage themselves with the larger GSD community, and found a self-identity as a valuable member with a distinct and meaning cultural background.

FunChinese takes Chinese as a prototype of promoting cultural communication through the means of language.

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