Semester-abroad program immerses students in vibrant Shanghai
By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
Julia Marsala (Artsci’14) is from a small farm town in Pennsylvania, so when she stepped into the megalopolis of Shanghai, with its more than 23 million people, she felt a little overstimulated, a little overwhelmed.
“The sheer number of people on the streets – it was nothing I’d ever seen. It was culture shock, but not in a bad way,” she says. “The city and China in general forces you out of your comfort zone, and when you do that, you learn a lot about yourself.”
Ms. Marsala was one of 10 Queen’s students who studied in China last fall as part of the Semester in Shanghai program, which was coordinated last year by the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLCU) for the first time, after a transfer from the Department of Global Development Studies (DEVS). DEVS established the Semester in Shanghai program with Fudan University in 2005 and it has since been recognized by the Chinese government as a Model Bilingual Education Program.
“Under the LLCU, the program is accessible to a larger group of students across many disciplines,” says Professor James Miller (Religious Studies), coordinator of the program. “It really is a chance for students to experience this rapidly changing country, beyond what they see in the news. China and the decisions it makes over the next few decades will have a huge impact on the world, and it’s vital that this generation of students both experiences the country first-hand and understands its history and philosophy.”
For Ms. Marsala, now back on Queen’s campus to finish her degree in life sciences and DEVS, the rewards of the Shanghai semester are immense. The program centres on a core research project that pairs each Queen’s student with a fellow-student or fellow-students, from Fudan. Planning to go into medicine, Ms. Marsala decided to research the history of health care in China, looking specifically at the westernization of traditional Chinese medicine. Her Fudan research partner’s mother happened to be a well-known Chinese doctor and was able to help Ms. Marsala navigate the complex system.
“It was really exciting and shocking to delve into China’s system, which is now a blend of both the traditional and the modern,” she says. “Everything I learned I’ll take with me as I make my way into the medical field. And I made some great friends along the way – I’m still in touch with my research partner, who is now studying in the United States.”
On top of the core course, students select from a variety of electives, such us Shanghai History, Religion in Chinese Society, Chinese Society and Culture, and a Chinese Language Course. They live in an international house on Fudan campus with students from around the world.
Ms. Marsala says one of the best things about the program is that students go with other Queen’s students. They can easily make Chinese and international friends but at the end of the day, they also have a core group of friends to study and socialize with. “We all really clicked. We were like a little family,” she says.
Applications for the 2014 Experience the Future: Semester in Shanghai program are being accepted until Feb. 28. The program is open to all undergraduate students in all plans at Queen’s who will be entering third year or above in September. Interested students may contact Dr. Miller by email or phone at 613-533-2078 for more information.