Students get a taste of China
August 12, 2008 -- As the world's attention turns to China for the Olympic Games, SF State students recently returned from a new summer study program in Beijing where they gained first-hand knowledge of the country's culture and foreign policy.
"Students were able to see the different faces of China," said Sujian Guo, professor of political science who directed SF State's first summer study program at Peking University. "The students gained a complete picture of the country in a way that is hard to do without being there to experience it for yourself."
The 17 students attended morning lectures taught in English by professors at Peking University, one of China's top universities. "I wanted to take in a view of China that was not filtered through the West," said John Du, a master's student in international relations. "I wanted to hear what Chinese academics think their country is doing right and wrong in domestic and foreign policy. What surprised me most was the variety of opinions that we encountered. There was a greater amount of freedom than I had expected and I found that China is far from a monolithic state."
The students learned about the political, economic, cultural, social and historical aspects of China and the issues and challenges facing the country. "China's growing prominence in global affairs means that now is the perfect time to prepare students for future career opportunities in foreign policy or international organizations concerning China," Guo said.
The trip made international relations major Maria Scarzella more determined to pursue a career connected to China. "It was an unforgettable experience," she said. "The lectures motivated me to specialize in international relations with an emphasis on China. Next year I hope to apply to Peking University for a Chinese language program."
Guo, an alumnus of Peking University and former employee of the Chinese central government, organized a series of afternoon field trips allowing students to visit governmental, non-governmental and business organizations. Students visited Beijing's historical treasures such as the Forbidden City and The Great Wall, and spent the last week of the trip exploring other areas of China including Xi'an, Guilin and Shanghai.
"This was a once in a lifetime experience," said Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He accompanied Guo and the students for the first week of the program and spent time developing links with Chinese institutions such as Peking University's School of Government and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Our growing partnership with China reflects a natural bond between San Francisco, a city with one of the largest Asian populations in the U.S., and China," Kassiola said. "I see great potential for joint projects in the future."
The summer study program is run by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, but is open to all students through the College of Extended Learning. The program will be offered again in June 2009. More details can be found at: http://bss.sfsu.edu/pku/index.html
-- Elaine Bible
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