Yale-China Association’s educational exchange programs reached peak popularity this year, with the number of applications jumping from 40 to 60.

The two programs, Yale University-New Asia College and Lingnan (University) College-Yale, offer Yalies a chance to collaborate with their peers in China on various projects and travel to China in the spring. Participants of YUNA conduct a yearlong research project on a particular topic chosen by the association, the topic for this academic year being “Authenticity and Modernization.”

L(U)CY allows students to devise strategies for businesses in the real world based on a chosen theme. This year’s theme is “Corporate Social Responsibility in a Globalizing World.”

Both programs include a visit from Chinese students to New Haven during winter and a trip of Yalies to China over spring break.

Past participants and the program director interviewed said the increased popularity can be attributed to the positive reviews of the programs and the elimination of program fees for students.

“There are a few reasons why these programs have become so popular,” said Leslie Stone, director of education and director for Hong Kong for Association. “[One of them is] word of mouth — YUNA and L(U)CY participants from years past had a great experience and are getting the word out about these unique exchange programs.”

Other reasons include the programs’ expansion and the programs’ overall structure, Stone said. According to Stone, although YUNA was established more than two decades ago, it had a very limited scope because it could only accommodate eight students each year.

Yale-China managed to reach more students, with the addition of 12 more spots annually after L(U)CY was established in 2014.

Stone added that the programs are participant-driven. For example, Yalies get to decide, based on the program’s specific theme, which events to hold for their guests visiting from China.

Despite the rise in interest in the two programs, Stone said the association has no immediate plan to expand them further.

“We continuously seek out new opportunities for Yale students and assess if they complement or expand upon existing program offerings,” Stone said. “There is always the possibility that we might expand these programs further but only if we can assure high quality. Exchange programs require careful staff attention to assure that both the Yale side and our partners are equally satisfied.”

Stone also mentioned the programs’ impact on participants and the larger Yale community. For example, Stone said participants noted that the programs complement the Light Fellowship and other internships that emphasize the study of East Asian languages. Moreover, the programs allow participants to build personal networks in Hong Kong or mainland China.

Stone said many participants have noted in their applications that they were most interested in learning more about their Chinese counterparts’ thoughts on the programs’ topics.

Tyler Bleuel ’19, who participated in L(U)CY last year and is in YUNA this year, said he enjoyed the collaborative nature of L(U)CY and is looking forward to developing deeper cultural connections with Chinese students through YUNA.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to spend two solid weeks together both in New Haven and in Hong Kong,” Bleuel said. “I very much appreciate Yale-China’s emphasis on building relationships, and I am excited by the prospect of building deeper, more lasting and meaningful friendships with the students from Hong Kong and to have another close knit cohort of Yalies.”

Aside from the word of mouth, Bleuel said the generosity of donors, which led to the elimination of student participation fees, also contributed to the rise in application numbers. Previously, the program fees were $250 for L(U)CY and $500 for YUNA.

Adam Echelman ’18, who participated in YUNA last year, called the program one of the major turning points of his Yale career.

“I came in with no prior experience to Asia really; I left inspired and excited about the region,” Echelman said. “YUNA inspired me to begin studying Chinese and to study China.” He spent the past summer as a Light Fellow in Beijing and plans to work and study in China upon graduation.

Echelman cited the lengthening of the L(U)CY trip to China from five days to seven as one of the other potential reasons for the hike in application numbers.

The application deadline for both programs was Sept. 30.