September 4, 2017
On September 2nd, with the send-off of fifteen newly-admitted students from the Pre-orientation Program, the UChicago Center in Beijing has rounded off Summer 2017 with exceptional success for student programs and activities. Throughout the summer, the Center has been buzzing with life, and full of opportunities for students in different programs to interact with each other and take advantage of all the resources that the faculty and staff have to offer.
Summer at the Center started off in mid-June with the arrival of 20 UChicago college students, who came to participate in the eight-week intensive Chicago in Beijing Summer Chinese Language Program. The group was led by UChicago senior lecturers Youqin Wang and Fangpei Cai, who have been teaching and developing the program for ten years. The lecturers were supported by four local graduate students, who major in teaching Chinese as a second language. In addition to their intensive study of the Chinese language, students went on excursions each weekend to local cultural sites, gaining exposure to Chinese culture. This is the seventh year that the Summer Chinese Language Program has taken place at the Center in Beijing.
About a week after the start of the Chinese Language Program, more students arrived at the Center to work as Metcalf interns. Spurred by their different professional interests, they are found in different industries and academic fields. Some work as interns at financial companies while others focus on traditional Chinese medicine, film production, promotion of cultural exchange, sustainability and environmental governance, paleontology lab work and still others work in a hospital or contemporary art gallery.
Metcalf interns work for ten weeks in their chosen companies or organizations, supported by grants from the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, the Ming Yuan Fund, and others. The Center helped interns meet with those local sponsors and their representatives. These events gave the Metcalf interns the opportunity to share their experiences and growth with their sponsors, further enabling their sponsors to recognize the value of their support.
In late June, eight interns chose to work out of the Center in Beijing, whose convenient location made it an ideal home base between frequent fieldwork and research excursions. Two interns set up a small experiment station in the Center as part of Keysar Lab’s research project collecting data on the relationship between multilingualism and decision-making. During their ten-week internship, they recruited over 400 subjects, who all took one-hour surveys at the Center. Three more interns came to work at the Center in late August, to continue the research into social and environmental policy that they had started in Shandong.
Another student intern, a representative of the College Admissions Office, conducted info sessions and interviewed prospective students at the Center. At the end of her internship, she had met over 300 students and parents from different parts of China, including 62 student interviewees. This pilot admissions program was a great success. In addition, on July 5th, Dean of Admissions James Nondorf took advantage of his visit to Beijing to conduct an info session about the UChicago College application process. Over 200 local high school students and their parents attended the event. Many top Chinese high school students now consider UChicago their dream school due to the increased visibility and reputation of the University.
Working with the Career Advancement Office, the Center also helped organize UChicago’s Launchpad Reception for student interns, incoming students, parents and alumni in an effort to increase engagement among them. Supported by Guy Cui, (Parent, class of 2019), the event provided an opportunity for attendees to meet each other and exchange information regarding student life and career opportunities.
Approaching the end of June, the Center received thirty UChicago students participating in the Wanxiang Ambassador Fellows Program, a pre-professional six-week program fully supported by the Wanxiang Corporation. The Wanxiang Ambassador Fellows studied Chinese language and culture and learned about green energy through lectures and field visits. Before these students went on to Hangzhou for a deep immersion into the field of green energy, they attended the Wanxiang Ambassador Fellows Green Energy Conference, which the UChicago Center in Beijing hosted and helped organize.
The end of the eight-week intensive Chinese Language Program saw the start of the Arts & Sciences in Beijing Program. The program was launched last year by the Graham School as a pilot program to extend UChicago liberal arts education to local high school students. It is a two-week program focused on helping local high school students experience how a liberal arts class is taught at the University of Chicago. The program grew from last year’s single class of twelve students to this year’s two classes, Happiness and Law and Economics, attended by a total of thirty students.
After the Arts & Sciences in Beijing Program, the Center welcomed a group of fifteen incoming UChicago freshmen to the two-week Pre-Orientation Program in Beijing. Taking advantage of the UChicago network of global centers, the Study Abroad Office launched this program last year to give new students a chance to experience Chinese culture and society and gain a taste of the UChicago core curriculum before their arrival on the main campus in late September.
As an extension of the University of Chicago campus in China, the Center in Beijing strives to be an intellectual destination for UChicago research and education, a place of opportunities for UChicago faculty and students, and a resource for local scholars and students. For student activities in particular, this summer at the Center has fulfilled these goals more successfully than ever before.
By Michael Berson, Class of 2019