Next fall, about 20 Yale students will travel to Peking University in Beijing for the first semester of a new joint study abroad program, Yale administrators said Tuesday afternoon.
Yale students who join the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program will live with honors students at Peking, and both groups of students will take classes taught in English by faculty from both universities. Yale administrators said students enrolled in the program will receive full course credit, with all expenses, including airfare, covered by the regular Yale semester tuition. During the program’s official unveiling Tuesday afternoon, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the new program is meant to expand interest in study abroad.
East Asian languages and literature professor Charles Laughlin will act as the program’s resident director and will teach a course on “Contemporary Beijing Culture” that will involve student field trips into the city for cultural events.
“This is unprecedented,” Laughlin said. “We are building bridges across programs.”
Yalies will be the only students from the United States living with Peking University’s Chinese students, as the university’s other international students live in separate housing.
“This is a pioneering program, the first of its type in China where U.S. university students would … not just be in a Chinese university, but really live with Chinese students,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “I believe it’s a great opportunity for significant cross-cultural exchange for students from both sides.”
Peking University, dubbed by some “the Harvard of China,” has a student body of about 30,000 with 15,000 undergraduates. The university, which was founded in 1898, recently launched a “liberal arts experiment” in which about 800 students were enrolled in the special Yuanpei Honors Program, which offers a broad range of elective courses.
“The Chinese students have higher English capabilities, certainly higher than our students have in Mandarin,” Laughlin said.
Yale students in the joint program, who do not need to have any prior experience in Chinese, are required to take a Chinese language course while studying in Peking, and administrators said students will probably take three additional courses per semester, for a total of 4.5 credits. Although there is no rule yet, Davis said students may be limited to four courses each semester because of the wide array of cultural learning opportunities available while they are in Beijing.
“There’s a lot more to do than sit in class,” Laughlin said.
Several of the courses that will be taught by Yale faculty at Peking University already exist at Yale, including professor Katerina Clark’s course on “The City in Literature and Film,” which will be offered in China next fall. Davis said the program will try to offer courses in every distributional group over the course of the year. With two Yale-affiliated science laboratories already running at Peking, science majors can participate in directed research projects for course credit in the program.
“The idea is to design a program so students in the sciences can have a good shot to study abroad,” said sociology professor Deborah Davis, head of the advisory board that planned the program.
Semesters at Chinese universities last for 18 weeks and the spring semester does not begin until after the lunar New Year. As a result, Yale students participating in the 2007 spring term of the Yale-in-Peking program will be in China from February until June.
Both Yale and Peking students in the program will live in a brand-new dormitory, with men and women housed on different floors. While there is an 11 p.m. lights-off rule for most students at Peking, the restriction has been waived for the Yale dormitory.
In addition to taking courses with Peking students, Yale students will be able to join the more than 150 existing student organizations on campus, said Fawn Wang, Yale’s assistant secretary for international affairs.
“There’s a lot of overlap with the student organizations we have here, so I think Yale students should find it an easy transition,” Laughlin said.
Yale sophomores, juniors and first-semester seniors will be eligible for the program, though seniors will have to proceed with the senior project in their major while in China. Laughlin said one of the goals of the program is to give Yalies who might not have even considered going abroad the chance to learn in a completely different environment.
“We want to make China more accessible than ever for students,” he said.
Ryan McFarlane ’07, a third-year Mandarin student, said he definitely plans to apply for the program. He said he thinks the program is a good way to study the language in China and take advantage of cultural opportunities while taking Yale courses for credit.
“We don’t have to disrupt our education,” he said.
But Casey Breves ’09, who is currently taking an introductory Mandarin class, said he thinks the program does not put enough emphasis on language study, since courses will be taught in English.
“I think I’m more interested in doing an intensive language program,” Breves said.
Applications to the fall 2006 program are due by Jan. 17.