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UWRF study abroad expands to China

February 17, 2011

Responding to campus, national, and global demands, UW-River Falls will be launching a new study abroad center in China for the fall of 2012.

This new international program will be the second center on the program’s second continent. Experience China is the proposed name for the program, which will operate similarly to its sister center Wisconsin in Scotland, said Global Connections Director Brent Greene.

“It really is a strategic move for the University,” said Greene. “China is the 800 pound gorilla in the global economy.”

The Asian countries have also reached out to the United States because they want their students to speak unaccented American English, said Study Abroad Adviser Linda Alvarez.

UWRF students will be attending classes with the partnering university, Zhejiang International Studies University, which is in Hangzhou, said Greene.

This Chinese university is specifically focused on being a college for research and international students, according to the Zhejiang University website.

Kaishan Kong, who teaches Chinese at UWRF and has also taught at Zhanjiang University, said that she thinks that it is great that UWRF is planning this new center.

China has tremendous economic potential, said Kong, the center can therefore serve as a platform for students future career opportunities, Kong said.

The introduction of the center in China also coincides with President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative.

UWRF has agreed to participate in the president’s plan to double the number of students it sends to China, Greene said.

UWRF is not necessarily behind global education in comparison to other college campuses. It was, however, still written into the campus’s strategic plan, which is Living the Promise 2007-2012, said Provost Fernando Delgado.

According to the Living the Promise dashboard, expanding global literacy and engagement has been labeled Goal 3.

Goal 3 is broken up into three University priorities; increasing the number of inbound international students, study abroad students, and internationalizing course curriculum and overall campus life.

UWRF currently has less then 100 inbound international students, said Delgado.Delgado said that professors should consider different ways to engage their students with the rest of the world.

“They should show and provide examples and research that provoke thought about living on a global scale,” he said.

Political science professor Wes Chapin, who is responsible for the International Traveling Classroom program, or ITC, said that his area of study is Europe.

“When I go (abroad), I am able to keep myself updated on these current issues and that is helpful for when I prepare courses,” said Chapin.

As part of Goal 3, UWRF has set a goal to send 50 percent of its students abroad. These terms are measured by the number of students that graduate from university, Greene said.

By these standards, the campus currently sends 35 percent of its students abroad, alternatively, almost 400 students, said Greene.

Many students have concerns about the cost of study abroad and therefore inhibits them from experiencing it. Having a study abroad center, like Wisconsin in Scotland or the future China program, is a more affordable alternative created by the University, said Alvarez.  With a second center established, Greene said that he hopes to decrease the costs of studying in both centers even further.

Aside from the 300 dollar registration fee, the cost of classes in Scotland reflect the cost of classes taken at UWRF. Accommodation fees are relatively similar to what it costs to stay in a Residence Life dorm, said Jess Nash, who recently returned from the Wisconsin in Scotland program.

Students in Scotland stay in Dalkeith Palace and are taught classes within the UW System, said Delgado.The Palace is about six miles away from the city center in Scotland, which was an inconvenience to students, said Nash.

The students that choose to study in the new China program will stay in a hotel nearby the partnering university. In addition, they will not be required to know how to speak Mandarin, Greene said.

“We are using China as a foundation to create an international experience,” Greene said.

The international experiences had by students is also dictated by strategic placement of study abroad opportunities, Wisconsin In Scotland Program Coordinator Kelsey McLean.

“We started of being very European based, but things have certainly started to evolve” said McLean.

With an agreement established in China, UWRF administrators are looking to find opportunities for students to have stronger relationships with universities in other continents, said Delgado. “We have had conversations with faculty from Latin America, we are considering a program in Chile,” Delgado added.

There has also been interest in creating an ITC program in Central America, said Greene.

Strategy aside, studying abroad is an eye opening experience, that teaches students them a lot about the world and themselves, said Scott Frohwein, who studied in Scotland.

“Studying abroad is hypercritical to students, without it- we are doing them a disservice,” said Greene.

The Study Abroad Fair is taking place 10 a.m. March 9 in the Falcon’s Nest.

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