Holly Chang, co-founder of Golden Bridges and "Chief Pengyou" of Project Pengyou. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
An alumni network for American students studying in China is helping to build up a global online community.
Project Pengyou, founded by Holly Chang, is considered to be a catalyst for the 100,000 Strong Initiative; an initiative which aims to get 100,000 American students to study Chinese abroad. The project is designed to promote US-China ties by serving the community of Americans that have lived and studied in China.
Chang, co-founder of Golden Bridges, a non-profit organization and "Chief Pengyou" of the project, said that the project's website provides a platform upon which the community can share their China stories and help individual members strengthen their connections.
She added that the goal of her project is to "build a vehicle for friendship engagement for Americans who study or have studied in China, who see a more nuanced perspective of the country from those who have never been". Furthermore, the personal accounts of alumni posted on the website are designed to attract more Americans to venture across the pond and study Chinese.
So far, "Project Pengyou" has over 1,000 members already, though this number is far below their expectations. Holly hopes that alumni members will go back to their campuses in the U.S. and conduct forums to spread awareness about the project.
Amir Hampel, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, is now taking part in the inter-university program for Chinese language study at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Amir is a new member of Project Pengyou. He says he was very interested in the mission of the Project upon hearing about it and was more than willing to share his own stories about China. Amir came to China because he wanted to see somewhere far different from his usual surroundings. The challenge that he faces on a daily basis to comprehend the things that are happening around him is the aspect of living in China which appeals to Amir most of all.
Amir believes that "Project Pengyou" is an important development that can energize Americans and foster a positive approach towards Sino-US relations.
Anne is also an American exchange student who came to study Chinese at the inter-university program for Chinese at Tsinghua University. She showed great interest in this new program and considered it to be particularly valuable because of the growing number of Americans coming to China.
In regards to the importance of the project, Holly Chang, also supervisor of Project Pengyou, said she believes that the Sino-US relationship is "the most important bilateral relationship in the world". Her belief is that the relationship, "be it political, economic, or security related, relies on people-to-people relations". For this reason, she is utilizing technology and an existing network of people to build up an entire community to maintain this peaceful relationship.
Chang believes that when problems between China and U.S. arise, the direct people-to-people relations will ultimately be the peacemakers and solve those issues further on down the line.
Those involved with the project believe that the potential for this community is huge for U.S.-China relations. Holly Chang stated that is the only mission driven community that she is aware of. The Project is intended to strengthen the relationship that already exists between China and the U.S., and Holly believes that it's "incredibly important to have a force for peace that is grounded in the people, grounded in the grass roots". 1 2 3