I remember being on the plane on my way to China and having no idea what to think or expect. All I kept thinking was that it was in the other side of the world. When we arrived we were greeted by a group of Chinese students holding up a sign reading “Fordham & CYU.” I could not have imagined the warm welcome that we received. From the moment we arrived in Beijing I didn’t feel like just a tourist or a study-abroad student, but rather a friend coming to visit.
Being one of the first Fordham students to participate in the new China Summer Study program, we were fortunate that our group was very small (3 Fordham students), which allowed for a very intimate experience. China Youth University of Political Studies (CYU) was established in 1948, with their Social Work department opening in 1993; it is an institute of higher education affiliated with the Central Committee of China Communist Youth League providing courses for the youth leaders of China. The students attending the university are among the brightest in China. Those we had class with were preparing for a one year study abroad program at Fordham University.
The class was made up of nine CYU students, three Fordham students, and Fordham Professor Dr. Cooper and her husband Dr. Gorman. Class discussions included social issues within the life course and how these might present differently in the two different cultures. It was a very enriching experience to have this exchange. We also got the opportunity to visit three different social work agencies with the students and experience how each is structured, what their missions are, and the role they play within the community. I truly appreciated learning about the different approaches each agency adopted, and being able to incorporate these experiences in the classroom discussions, as well as outside the classroom when spending time with the CYU students.
To add to our academic experiences, the CYU students’ hospitality extended to them taking us sightseeing to the different tourist areas, as well as spending time within the community and experiencing life as a ‘Beijinger.’ It was such a privilege to have our CYU friends spend time with us outside the classroom. It personally helped me gather a very unique understanding of the culture I don’t believe I would have obtained otherwise. My three weeks in China were unforgettable. I learned so much, and only hope to one day be able to go back and visit my CYU friends!