Posted: May 10, 2006
This summer Mount Holyoke College is launching an intensive eight-week course in Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). The program has already attracted a group of 17 students, including three from Smith College. Ying Wang, associate professor and chair of Asian studies, conceived the idea and made all the arrangements with BLCU to get the program up and running.
According to Wang, there are very few programs for summer study in China, and having a Mount Holyoke program enables all interested MHC students to participate. In addition, "having our own program makes it easier to incorporate it into our curriculum," Wang said. "We can ask the host institution to tailor the curriculum according to our needs." The Mount Holyoke program is affiliated with BLCU's College of Advanced Chinese Study.
BLCU was established in 1962 and specializes in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. It has more than 5,000 international students studying Chinese at different levels. The MHC students will attend lectures and language drills in the morning and work in pairs with a "language partner" in the afternoon. They will complete a full year of Chinese in the eight-week period.
The immersion program includes a variety of extracurricular activities to reinforce learning outside the classroom. Elective culture courses, such as Taiji boxing, Taiji sword, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese songs, and cooking, will be offered. Students will also explore the rich cultural sites of China, including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. They will see performances by the Beijing Opera and the Chinese Acrobats. Ying Wang will accompany the group and will be available throughout the program as an adviser and resource person.
The demand for Chinese language instruction at the College has more than tripled since Wang came to teach here in 1999. There were 19 students back then; next fall there will be more than 70.
Mount Holyoke's arrangement with BLCU also includes a faculty exchange program. This year, BLCU professor Danna Huang is at Mount Holyoke teaching Chinese language. In exchange, Mount Holyoke will send Leah Glasser, dean of first-year studies and English lecturer, philosophy professor Tom Wartenburg, and Jens Christiansen, professor of economics and chair of European studies, to teach at BLCU for two weeks. "A lot of Chinese universities are trying to internationalize their curriculums. They welcome faculty from the U.S. and all over the world," Wang said.
Eva Paus, professor of economics and director of the Center for Global Initiatives, said, "Thanks to the tireless efforts of Ying and Joanne Picard [dean of international studies at the CGI], we have a great-looking pilot program. It is more than we had hoped for and really a most promising start. It is testimony to the huge interest in Chinese among our students."