A 30-year bond between schools remains strong

Updated: 2012-10-16 07:39

By Luo Wangshu (China Daily)

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Dartmouth, Beijing Normal mark historic partnership

An elite United States college is aiming to expand its international cooperation program in China, with more exchanges between faculty and students, its president has announced.

Dartmouth College's new president, Carol L. Folt, visited Beijing last month to take part in the 30th anniversary of the school's collaboration with Beijing Normal University, a prestigious Chinese school.

"It's one of our longest and most cherished programs," Folt said. "New Hampshire (the home of Dartmouth College) has to reach out to the world through international cooperation."

A 30-year bond between schools remains strong

She said a big part of Dartmouth's current two-year strategic plan involves global partnership.

"We give students the education, not only to make them leaders in their hometowns, their nations, but also to be able to work with people from all over the world," she said, adding that she has a strong belief this can be accomplished through international cooperation.

Folt recalled the establishment of the partnership with Beijing Normal University three decades ago.

"It was the first partnership between universities in the US and China. It's now also the longest uninterrupted partnership between our nations."

The program brought Dartmouth undergraduates, led by a faculty member, to China to study at Beijing Normal University for a semester.

Eighteen students studied on the first Dartmouth program in 1982. One of them was Timothy Geithner, an Asian Studies major, and today the US Treasury secretary.

Since 1982, a total of 768 Dartmouth students have studied at the Beijing university.

Folt said she is proud of the long-standing partnership with Beijing Normal University, describing the program as one of the most popular for students at Dartmouth.

"Many students apply for the program, making it very competitive. It's a great chance to learn a language and about China. Everybody who is interested in China wants to come," she said.

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Folt recalled one student telling her: "These experiences have, and continue to have, a profound effect on my life."

Another said: "Rarely do we have the ability to completely displace ourselves from the familiar and be forced to dispose of what we know, and begin anew. This experience remains one of the most defining of my education."

Wang Jiankun, an associate professor at Beijing Normal University and one of the program leaders, said the exchange provided students with a wealth of experiences.

"Students don't just sit in a class during their time (in Beijing), they also take field trips, such as watching Peking opera and acrobatics, and visiting the Imperial Palace," she said.

The program has also allowed 11 faculty members from Beijing Normal University to spend a year at Dartmouth, and 11 Dartmouth professors to travel to the Chinese capital to direct study abroad programs.

"They bring something different to the host universities," Folt said, adding that the experience of working with international professors and students improves knowledge about higher education in other countries.

Wang first went to Dartmouth as an exchange professor in the 1990s and then in 2003. She stayed with Dartmouth students.

"It's a lot of work living with students," Wang said, adding that it had been a happy experience. "As a foreigner in the US, I often encountered problems which were solved with the help of my students there. They also shared their understandings about local culture to me, which was interesting."

Outside of the exchange program, there are 350 Chinese students studying undergraduate or graduate programs at Dartmouth.

Folt said the Chinese students not only focus on their study, but are also "involved in school activities and organizations, and are really part of the school".

She said she sees China as a great partner, with a rapidly growing higher education competence.

Folt also noted that China ranks first in the number of nationals studying overseas, and China's undergraduates now represent the fastest-growing group of international students studying globally.