Peking program aims to attract students

The Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program has altered its requirements and application deadline in an effort to attract more students to the currently under-subscribed spring term of its study-abroad program, administrators said.

Cameron Gearen, the program’s on-campus coordinator, said she has received slightly fewer applications for next semester than she had hoped to see, but the program will continue to run. Some current PKU-Yale students expressed concern about the administration of the program and the quality of courses, but others said the problems are minor and outweighed by the rewards of living abroad.

Dean Peter Salovey presents about the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program on Sept. 21, 2006. The program recently changed its application deadline and dropped the Chinese language requirement in hopes of enticing more students into applying.
Han Xu
Dean Peter Salovey presents about the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program on Sept. 21, 2006. The program recently changed its application deadline and dropped the Chinese language requirement in hopes of enticing more students into applying.

Although the program’s application deadline for the spring was Monday, coordinators said they will accept late applications for the program, which kicked off this fall with 21 participating Yale students.

“We want to make sure we reach the students we intend to reach,” Gearen said. “We don’t want to close the process prematurely, when some students might just be getting the word.”

Over the past few weeks, PKU-Yale coordinators have attempted to make the program more accessible by opening it to students with no prior background in Chinese. The program now offers a non-credit “survival Chinese” tutorial, according to an October e-mail announcement by Yale College Dean Peter Salovey.

Charles Laughlin, the program’s resident director, said Yale-in-Peking aims to draw students who might be discouraged from studying abroad due to foreign language requirements.

“It’s in the nature of our program that the students we want to reach, those who would not otherwise have considered going to China … are difficult for us to identify and advise through existing channels,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Administrators and students said the timing of the spring term — which will run from late February to June — may detract from its appeal.

“The scheduling of the semester sometimes conflicts with attractive summer internships and other opportunities,” Laughlin wrote. “But if students investigate all the alternatives at their disposal — for example, the wide variety of Bulldogs in Beijing internships — they may want to reconsider.”

Some current PKU-Yale students said they have encountered difficulties with the facilities and the administration of the program, particularly when a miscommunication with the Chinese police prevented some students from obtaining proper visas.

But other students, such as Han Xu ’09, said they have made many changes to make students comfortable.

“The problems have generally been minor and are more or less resolved at this point,” Xu said in an e-mail. “Speaking honestly, the staff here has already gone to great lengths to accommodate our living standards as much as possible.”

Xu is a staff photographer for the News.

A number of students also suggested that the limited selection of classes should be expanded to allow participants to take courses within their major and to fulfill distributional requirements. Students also said that the courses are less rigorous than the average Yale classes because of the language barrier created by mixing English- and Chinese-speaking students and faculty.

“The classes are great, although sometimes it feels like Yale Lite,” Gary DeTurck ’08 said.

But some Yale students at Beida said the purpose of the program is not to take difficult classes, but to experience a different culture.

“If you want to be in class all day and do homework all night, there’s no reason to leave New Haven,” Michael Schmale ’08 said in an e-mail. “Our classes are far from overwhelming and mainly serve as a mechanism to maintain a healthy level of academic vitality.”

Gearen said she will continue to accept late applications as long as she feels sufficient interest exists among undergraduates.

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