New China program takes shape

Yale is one step away from finalizing a study abroad program, the first coordinated effort of its kind, which will send approximately 25 undergraduates per semester to study alongside 25 Chinese students in Beijing, University administrators said yesterday.

The University is expected to announce the partnership, slated to last for six semesters, with the prestigious Bei Da University in Beijing in approximately 10 days, after all details have been finalized. The partnership will begin in the fall of 2006, and all interested students are invited to apply whether or not they speak Chinese, said sociology professor Deborah Davis, head of the program’s advisory board. The students chosen for the program will study at Bei Da University alongside their Chinese peers in classes specifically designated for Yale students enrolled in the program.

“The idea is to have 25 Yale students and 25 Peking students who will literally be engaged in what we think is a unique program where they will study together and live together,” University Secretary Linda Lorimer said. “Most programs take U.S. students and put them off by themselves, or sprinkle them throughout hundreds of courses. The faculty interest here is to create a true joint living and learning experience.”

Students in the program will be able to choose their own schedule from a list of courses, all of which will be conducted in English, Davis said. Though no familiarity with Chinese language is required to participate in the program, all participants will be required to take one course of Chinese at Bei Da.

“Language is not a requisite for admission,” said Mu Ling, who heads the Chinese language program at Yale. “Someone can have zero knowledge of Chinese and still apply. However, applicants must have a demonstrated interest in China.”

The courses will be taught by a mix of Yale and Bei Da faculty, and will carry Yale College credit. Like Yale-in-London, a student will not have to apply for a junior term abroad to participate in the program since it will be part of Yale, Davis said. Professors have constructed the program to offer all distribution groups, and will include the option for students to test into science classes.

“The whole program is set up for someone who hasn’t spoken one word of Chinese,” Davis said. “This is a program that’s taught in English to be a gateway for people who don’t have advanced Chinese to have a really intense immersion.”

Select students whose Chinese is advanced enough will be able to take a certain number of courses in Bei Da during spring semesters, but Davis said students who are advanced Chinese learners would be better served applying for the Light Fellowship, which provides students with funds to study an East Asian language abroad.

Davis headed an advisory board that has worked for the past eight months negotiating the details of the joint program. She expects more details, including a list of classes offered, to be released within the next 10 days in tandem with the University’s official announcement of the program.

“The contract should’ve been signed last week when the president of China was scheduled to come,” Davis said. “We are down to the most minor changes right now. The plan is, when President Levin goes to China, to announce it.”

Levin will be travelling to Beijing next week to finalize the details for the program.

“We’ll be working on some of the final details when we’re over there next week,” Levin said. “This is more like checking out the facilities and other arrangements there.”

The University has not released information regarding the program until now, though rumors of a partnership with Bei Da had been circulating among students interested in Chinese studies since last year.

Applications to the program were scheduled to be made available to students online Sept. 15, a date that has since been postponed.

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