This academic year the Provost signed agreements with universities from China for the first ever yearlong exchange program at Columbia College. Students from Beijing International Studies University (BISU) and Beijing Film Academy (BJFA) are currently attending the college. The Business & Entrepreneurship department welcomed 17 Arts Management majors this fall (14 undergraduate and 3 graduate students). They came with high expectations, much excitement and many surprises. We had a chance to interview the undergraduate class about their experience in Chicago thus far.
Rico spoke for everyone when she revealed that the government funded tuition for Columbia College swayed their decision to study here for a year but admitted there are other reasons that drew them to the program as well. Ming Ming Wu had the opportunity to come to the United States right after high school, but her parents felt she was too young to leave Beijing. She expressed that it was “fate” that presented her with another opportunity to attend her junior year at Columbia College. Danting just wanted the opportunity to experience the US and Chicago for the first time.
Of course there were some cultural aspects that took some getting used to, but that is to be expected. Some things you may not have thought of surprised them because of the differences. Chicago examples include the general practice of serving water with ice despite the weather, the many commercials on television shows, and our heavy use of email regardless of the level of urgency.
The students from BISU and BJFA are adjusting thanks to pleasantly surprising aspects of the city. Qiuping shared her new found interests in the local festivals and the purchase of her first Halloween costume. The costume was witch themed of course, pointy hat and all. Yuzhou excitedly recounted the friendliness of Chicagoans and how everyone says hello with a smile on their faces. Although there was discontent with sales tax (as expected), they love the opportunity nonetheless.
Beijing is commonly thought of as vastly different from Chicago but connections were drawn from similarities, even where differences are present. In Chicago, we tend to head outward towards suburbs to enjoy the “hipster” scene, as explained by Giaoyang, but in Beijing, they flock to the downtown area for social outings instead. Yuzhou mentioned her admiration for the beautiful buildings that Chicago has but April also added the eco-city concept embraced by Beijing where each building houses retail on the first floor and residential living or businesses above it.
BISU and BJFA students cite support at the college as one of the many good things about the program. Professor office hours and tutors are a great help for the “second-language students” and all the students in general when seeking academic support. The concept of office hours is exclusively American when compared to China, and should be appreciated by us all. Danting shared that she really appreciated office hours here in comparison to sporadically scheduled meetings in Beijing with busy professors.