When students arrive at Yale University in the United States, they probably never imagine they will enrol in a class half a world away.
A group of 21 Yale College sophomores and juniors have arrived in Beijing for a joint undergraduate programme between Yale and Peking University (Beida), which was officially launched yesterday.
They will spend a semester in Beida, living and studying together with their Chinese partners. Each student shares a double room with an undergraduate from Beida Yuanpei Programme, an experimental project that emphasizes comprehensive studies instead of majors.
Peter Salovey, dean of Yale College, described the programme as the first "genuinely joint international experience" that Yale has set up.
"We have many other international experiences, but this is the first one in which our students are living with students at another university," he said. "We think it is a new model for international education."
Salovey said they started the new model with Beida because they consider first-hand knowledge of China a valuable asset for Yale students as China gains power and influence in today's world.
The programme has received a warm response from students at Yale and Beida.
Salovey said the school had received hundreds of applications for the fall semester and set up a faculty selection committee to review all applications.
The final roster was decided by interviews.
Beida has similar selection procedures.
To maximize their cultural understanding, Yale students will enrol in a Chinese language class. Besides, they are also required to choose at least three classes from seven classes offered by both Yale and Beida professors. Direct Yale credit is offered.
Chinese students are required to choose at least one class besides their regular studies. Classes are mainly about Chinese culture and economy, American and European culture.
Lucineida Fonseca, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in International Studies and Political Science, said she decided to come to China because of her interest in Chinese language and culture.
"I want to take a risk and try something new," she said, 20 days after arriving. "I've been exploring the city and everything is going fine so far."
She said she is getting on well with her Chinese roommate. "We even go to bars or shopping together after class," Fonseca said. "And we've decided to visit Sichuan during the National Day holiday."
Zhu Xiaoyu, a Chinese student in the programme, said US students planned their daily schedules better than Chinese students. "They work hard, but they also play hard," he said.
However, poor air quality and busy traffic in Beijing are the two main headaches for the newcomers. Student Ben Jacobs said some of his classmates had felt ill because of the air, and crossing the street was a "terrifying" experience.
But, he said, "we're happy to see the real China."
Source: China Daily