International Friendship Day, the School of Science at XJTLU

23 May 2024

The School of Science (SCI) at XJTLU successfully held the 2024 International Friendship Day on Saturday the 18th of May. The exciting event began with a warm welcome to our non-local and international students given by Professor Eben Goodale, who emphasized their importance for XJTLU to accomplish its mission to be a research-led international university. Dr.  Lifeng Ding, informed the students that SCI faculty and staff are always available to connect, assist and support them to ensure this important and formative academic experience at XJTLU is a fulfilling and enjoyable one.

The organizers of this event, Professor Uromi Goodale and Dr. Justin Fendos, explained that the objective of the International Friendship Day is to engage students from around the country and the world, and listen to their unique perspectives, which enrich our learning community at SCI and XJTLU. It was emphasized to the students that they are an integral part of our University community and an important resource for our SCI and XJTLU as our future ambassadors.

Following a short presentation given by Professor Uromi Goodale on the “Classical Gardens of Suzhou”, the students participated in the highlight of the day’s activities, the visit to the Canglang Pavilion, which has deep cultural roots and the longest history, of all of Suzhou's famous classical gardens. Guided by Chinese undergraduates, Xiaoye Pan, Hao Mei, Zhi Jing and Lianqi Zhou students spent time exploring the roughly 10,000 square meters, or 2 1/2 acres, of the exquisite pavilions including the Five Hundred Sages Hall, Mingdao Hall and Mountain Viewing Building, and its tranquil landscapes.

They enjoyed the wonderful collection of bamboo and ancient trees in the garden, which were blended in a seemingly unsophisticated yet profoundly refined manner in the Chinese tradition of 'man imitating nature' and learned about how more than 140 different kaleidoscopic windows adorn this classical garden, which is one of its unique architectural features. Finally, they took time to connect with each other in relaxed conversation over a cup of Chinese red, green, or jasmine tea and headed to campus for a dinner together to conclude the day’s activities.

Bamboo garden providing shade along a stone inlayed pathway for walking in the Canglang Pavilion. 

Professor John Moraros, Dean of the School of Science, who conceptualized this important activity said:  “The International Student Friendship Day is a vital celebration for our School and University. It helps underscore the importance of diversity, inclusivity, and the rich cultural exchange that enhances our academic environment. By fostering friendships across borders, we prepare our students to become leaders and thrive in a global community."

Captivating lattice window designs in the Canglang Pavilion

Dr. Yaoqi Li, a plant ecology expert from the Department of Health and Environmental Science, said:  “It was lovely to take a stroll in the traditional garden with students and colleagues on a Saturday. It was especially fitting after listening to Uromi, who explained the wisdom of Suzhou gardens, such as burrowed scenery, the use of rocks and water, the concept of hide and reveal through a lecture and on-site tour. This activity aligns with our School’s philosophy of involving international students to understand Chinese culture, especially the unity of nature and man (“天人合一”), which is one of the main thoughts in Chinese traditional culture.”Chemistry department faculty member, Dr. Shane Lo Fan Hin, said:  “It was a great honor to have been invited to be part of the International Friendship Day celebrations by the School of Science. We spent a lovely afternoon visiting the Canglang Pavilion, where I learned a lot of useful facts about garden design and Chinese culture in the company of students and the event ended with a sumptuous dinner.”  Dr. Faez Khan, who attended the event representing the Biological Sciences Department thanked the organizers for this special invitation stating that the tour on the International Friendship Day to the Suzhou Garden was a wonderful exploratory experience that he truly enjoyed.

View of the Canglang Pavilion at the waters edge

SCI students from around the world participated, including India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Palestine, Russia, and various parts of China also positively reflected on this engaging activity. Vera Pushkina, a biological sciences undergraduate from Russia, said:  “The experience at the International Friendship Day was like the first day of entering university both exciting and nervous, seeing new faces, but also rendering a strong feeling of connection between all the students. As we built on the common experience in our SCI and XJTLU as international students, this day was quite important in realizing and building a strong international science community, which I found to be very heartwarming.”

Agnishikhe Kumar, a PhD student from the Department of Health and Environmental Sciences, said:  “It was very exciting to be part of the International Friendship Day event. It provided a fun platform to meet and interact with students and professors from diverse communities while also being introduced to the Suzhou culture through classical gardens.” Alexander Jun Martin from Japan, who is a biological sciences student, said:  “The International Friendship Day was a great opportunity to communicate with fellow students and teachers on an individual basis, whilst also exploring the natural wonders within the city”. Xiaoye Pan, one of the four Chinese students that hosted this event said:  “For the International Friendship Day activities, we had a wonderful trip to the Canglang Pavilion. Through introducing ourselves to each other and talking, we noticed the different cultural backgrounds and life experiences we bring together in Suzhou but also recognized our shared interest in the classical gardens, while we enjoyed the harmony with nature that the gardens brought to us. We ended the day making new friends and lasting memories.”

Group photo taken with the International Friendship Day participants in the Canglang Pavilion. 

The participants left the garden etching into memory the couplet that Yu Yue (1821-1907), the famous Qing Dynasty scholar and poet, wrote on one of Canglang pavilion's columns “The cool wind and the bright moon are priceless, While the faraway water and the nearby hill both engender affection”, which reflect the scholar-garden spirit of Canglang Pavilion and the heart-warming display of cultural exchange and spirit of camaraderie that the attendees brought from far away international waters and nearby hills of China.

Material from: Professor Uromi Goodale

Review:Professor John Moraros



23 May 2024