Peiwen Li and Ying Chen agree that it’s great to have the best of both worlds – studying both at their home university, Tongji University in Shanghai, and here at Queen’s – through a 2+2 program between the two institutions that began in the fall of 2015.
“We get to experience both universities, receive degrees from both universities, and spend a long period of time in another country,” says Ms. Li, who, along with Ms. Chen and three others from Tongji, will graduate from the program this spring. “It is really useful to be here long enough to learn more about the culture and learn the language fully.”
Students enrolled in the 2+2 program first spend two years at Tongji’s College of Environmental Science and Engineering and then, two years in Queen’s School of Environmental Studies. Upon graduation, they are awarded a degree from both universities.
“It has been a really good experience that has broadened our horizons,” says Ms. Chen, who has most enjoyed the field work at the Queen’s University Biology Station (QUBS) and an international field course in Mexico offered by Professor Stephen Lougheed, as well as a field course offered through Trent University in Hong Kong and Taiwan. “It’s been interesting to see the differences in the two education systems and the ways of teaching and learning. Knowing both academic worlds will likely help us with our work in the future.”
Ms. Chen and Ms. Li say the focus at Tongji was more on engineering, while at Queen’s, courses have centred on the social sciences. At Queen’s, they’ve had more flexibility in the courses they can choose, and they’ve enjoyed the longer summer break, which gave them the opportunity to seek out different experiences and spend time thinking about future possibilities (in China, students typically only have about two months off). They both have really appreciated the support from faculty members and teaching assistants, who have understood the challenges associated with studying in a second language and were able to direct them to resources across campus, such as the Writing Centre.
“The Tongji 2+2 program offers exciting opportunities for Chinese students joining us at Queen’s and it enriches teaching and learning experiences for all Queen’s students, staff and faculty who benefit from exposure to diverse and global perspectives,” says Alice Hovorka, Director, School of Environmental Studies. “Ultimately, such international programs promote cross-cultural understandings between our respective institutions and contexts.”
Ms. Li spent last summer working with Dr. Lougheed in a lab on campus – performing DNA extraction from fish samples – through the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP), which she says was an excellent way to gain exposure to lab work. She also visited QUBS several times throughout the summer to attend seminars and the field station’s annual open house – all valuable experiences for Ms. Li.
“The Tongji 2+2 program offers exciting opportunities for Chinese students joining us at Queen’s and it enriches teaching and learning experiences for all Queen’s students, staff and faculty who benefit from exposure to diverse and global perspectives”
~ Alice Hovorka, Director, School of Environmental Studies
Also in her first year at Queen’s, Ms. Li received the Charles Baillie Environmental Studies Scholarship, awarded on the basis of excellence to students entering fourth year of any undergraduate degree program in the School of Environmental Studies.
“It was an honour to receive the award. It felt very encouraging,” says Ms. Li, who will continue with graduate work at Queen’s, beginning a PhD next fall with Dr. Lougheed studying Arctic ecosystems. Ms. Chen will also be staying at Queen’s and working on a master’s degree with Dr. Lougheed – but while Ms. Li loves the detailed focus of lab work, Ms. Chen loves being outside and in the field. Her graduate work will focus on frog phenology – looking at how different biological factors and cycles, such as temperature and humidity, affect their behaviour.
Four other Tongji students are currently enrolled in the first year of the two-year program and will complete their degrees in 2018.
The 2+2 program is one of several collaborations between Queen’s and Tongji University. In 2013, Queen’s and Tongji established the Sino-Canada Network for Environment and Sustainable Development, which provides a platform for research collaboration between faculty members at both institutions, and opportunities for exchange and training. In 2015, Queen’s began collaborating with Tongji on the International Research Laboratory of Yangtze River Ecology, or Intelab-Yangtze.
Internationalization in one of the four pillars of the Queen’s University Strategic Framework 2014–2019. The Comprehensive International Plan was launched in August 2015 to help the university build on its international strengths and direct future internationalization efforts. The plan’s goals include strengthening Queen’s international research engagement and creating more opportunities for student mobility through academic exchange and study-abroad programs. The plan also aims to attract high-quality international students to Queen’s and to increase international educational opportunities on Queen’s campus. China is a region of focus within the plan. For more information on the Queen’s-China Connection and Queen’s international program overall, visit the International website.