By Silas Allen
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Students from a university in China are in Stillwater this month as a part of an international engineering education initiative.
The 60 students came to Oklahoma State University from Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, China. The group is the first China has sent to the United States for a study abroad project under the Global Engineering Excellence Initiative.
The initiative is a cooperative effort among several international universities and corporations to prepare engineering students to work in a globalized economy after graduation. Among other universities participating in the initiative are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology and Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico.
OSU signed a memorandum of understanding with SWJTU in 2007, launching an exchange program with the university. The two universities offer a joint degree program, and SWJTU plans to send a language instructor to Oklahoma in the fall to work with OSU’s Chinese language program.
Last month, OSU President Burns Hargis visited the university to help commemorate the 115th anniversary of its establishment.
Vivian Wang, OSU’s manager of Chinese development, said the students represent the top of their degree programs. Of the 60 students involved, 23 are from the university’s honors college, she said.
The students arrived in the United States on July 13, and they will be in Oklahoma until August 5, she said. While here, the students are participating in a number of activities, including taking a thermodynamics course on campus.
Wang said there is no comparable course offered as a part of the engineering program at SWJTU, so the university requested the students be able to take the course at OSU.
The course has a dual purpose, she said. The students are able to take a course that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them, she said, but they also have the chance to get a better understanding of the American educational system.
One of the goals of the visit is to give the students a taste of the typical American college experience, she said, and taking a course on campus contributes to that.
“By having this class, they will have a better understanding of American education,” she said. “They are experiencing what a typical American would experience on campus.”
Thrusday the students were touring several local companies, Wang said. The idea is to allow the students to gain an understanding of how American businesses work, she said. The students planned to tour the Eskimo Joe’s print shop and Kicker, as well as several city facilities, including a water treatment plant.
During the visit, the students are also working on a Habitat for Humanity project, Wang said. Last weekend, 15 students worked with the group, she said. Some worked on a building project and others helped with the group’s scrap metal recycling efforts.
More of the students were interested in working with Habitat for Humanity, she said, but because the group could only take 15 students at a time, the students have asked OSU and Habitat for Humanity to arrange a second date, she said.
Part of the purpose of the visit is to give the students a chance to interact with their American counterparts, Wang said. OSU has scheduled times for formal interaction, she said, but the visitors also meet American students simply by living on campus, taking their meals in the university dining halls and visiting the Colvin Center — a particular favorite among the Chinese students, she said.
As a part of one of the scheduled interactions, the students are meeting with a few OSU students who plan to study at SWJTU in the fall. The interaction gives the Chinese students the chance to meet fairly typical American students, while helping ease the transition the OSU students will go through in the fall, she said.
Ethan Qiu, one of the students on the visit, said the trip had given him the opportunity to learn more about the United States and its culture, history and people. When he arrived at OSU, he said, he was surprised at how outgoing and friendly the people were.
“They are always willing to help,” he said.
One of the most significant differences Qiu has seen has been in the style of classroom instruction, he said. In China, professors tend to breeze through information, he said. Here, the professor in the thermodynamics course goes at a slower pace, stopping often to make sure everyone understands, he said.
Qiu said such visits are an important component of his education. Part of the purpose of the visit is simply allowing the students to broaden their horizons by visiting an unfamiliar culture, he said. To that end, he said, the visit has been a benefit.
“This whole journey is very meaningful,” he said.