Economics benefits from exchanges
Budding "2+2" program draws Chinese students to Dalhousie
Ryan McNutt - April 19, 2012
As picturesque images from China’s Shandong province displayed on the screen, exchange student Wenjia Li described the tourist industry of her home.
“It’s looked at as one of the birthplaces of ancient Chinese culture,” she explained. “It holds approximately 493 natural and built tourist attractions, 13,000 ancient archeological sites and two World Heritage Sites.”
With her project partner Shuosheng Yin, Ms. Ying presented her work during a full-afternoon workshop last month called, “From China to Canada,” featuring papers by students in the Department of Economics’ China program.
The department jointly runs study abroad programs with Shandong University of Finance and Economics in Jinan, Shandong province, and with Renmin University of China in Beijing. They are called “2+2” programs because undergraduates spend their first two years studying in China before coming to Dalhousie to complete the second half of their degree.
Expanding academic skills
Since its launch in 2009, the 2+2 programs have been very successful. This year, there are 75 students in the program. That's a big influx of students when you consider the department only has around 180 economics majors.
The power of the study abroad program lies in the opportunity for students to pair experience at home with North American economic insights – not to mention an immersion in an English-speaking setting. The program offers mentorships with Canadian economics students and workshops for students with the College of Continuing Education that focus on language and academic skills.
“In addition to the linguistic challenges faced by any student studying in a foreign language, a Chinese student who has been primarily assessed through exams through their whole secondary and university career must suddenly start researching and writing essays upon arriving in Canada,” explains Jennifer MacDonald, an instructor with the program. "It’s a sea change for them, and the conference was the culmination of a workshop series initiating them into the research and writing process.”
“It’s such a genuine pleasure to hear these presentations,” said the program’s director, Professor Barry Lesser at the event. “They’ve worked hard preparing these, and the results bear out their hard work.”
The papers covered a wide array of both Canadian and Chinese topics, with some presentations comparing the countries’ economies or looking at Canadian-Chinese trade. In the case of Mr. Ying and Ms. Li, they elucidated the important role that tourism plays in Shandong province.
Studying in another culture
When asked what they appreciated about studying in Canada, both suggested that it was the chance to study in a different academic culture that attracted them.
“We are thinking differently, learning from the experience working in these groups,” said Mr. Yin.
In opening the workshop, Dr. Lesser quoted Deng Ziaoping’s famous statement that China had “nothing to fear” from Western education.
“This program is a testament to the truth of that statement…you are evidence of the value of what the opening up of China has brought.”
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