Gateway to China
The vicissitudes in the history of China have created a rich diversity that both fascinates and puzzles us. And today, as the most populous country and an emerging superpower, China is a force to reckon with. Hence, there is always a great demand for teaching that helps students from different cultural backgrounds to acquire the essential skills and knowledge for getting a grasp on the many faces of contemporary China. It is this awareness of cross-cultural engagement that makes CUHK’s contemporary China studies stand out. The BA/BSSc in Contemporary China Studies offered by CUHK was designed to give students a good understanding of the nation through scholarship and first-hand experience.
Prof. David Faure, Director of the Centre for China Studies, pointed out that the programme commits itself to a flexible, individualized approach to guiding and teaching students. Such an approach has proved indispensable to helping them acquire the cultural and linguistic competencies to live and study in the Greater China region.
‘We provide small class experiences, ample faculty advising and support, and foster a culture of integration,’ he added.
Soohyung Park, a graduate pursuing graduate studies in London now, is impressed by the diverse backgrounds of both the faculty and students of Contemporary China Studies.
‘Contemporary China Studies is by far the most diverse programme within CUHK. Through interacting with students from backgrounds totally different from mine, I was soon to appreciate the fact that we could approach the same issue from a wide range of vantage points, and come up with different interpretations.’
On top of an individualized approach, the programme seeks to deepen students’ learning by linking the study of China with other academic disciplines and areas of expertise relevant to their professional development. Students are prepared and encouraged to combine their studies with a particular academic discipline, such as economics and development, urbanization and environmental studies, political science, history, anthropology, etc. Many students take up law, business, hospitality, public health, Chinese medicine, and communications as a minor and second major.
Another feature of CUHK’s Contemporary China Studies is the strong emphasis it places on English and Chinese linguistic skills. International students studying Chinese as a second language will take intensive language study programmes in either Peking University or National Taiwan University, although prior knowledge of Chinese is not required. By leveraging on CUHK’s networks in China, individualized fieldwork courses, internship courses, and social engagement-language learning courses are also made available.
The ‘on the ground’ learning experience in China not only proves essential for language acquisition, but also for cultural competency, as Soohyung noted.
‘This programme brushed away my initial stereotypes about China. I was on exchange in Peking University for one semester, which had been a period of intense soaking up of everything Chinese – its culture, way of thinking and languages,’ he said.
Students who are native Chinese speakers may opt to pursue exchange studies at SOAS University of London or at other CUHK partner institutions around the world.
To help students consolidate their ‘on the ground’ learning with classroom learning, senior students are required to go through advanced research analysis training in a series of designated seminars and capstone course tutorials. At the end of the training, they are expected to produce a final research paper on their particular area of interest about China.
The research component is especially important to students who set their eyes on postgraduate studies. Soohyung looked back with gratitude his exchange experience at Peking University, which contributed greatly to his dissertation. He called his training in research ‘a pivotal foundation’ for launching his ambition on an academic career.
‘When I first joined the programme, I could hardly speak any Putonghua, but in three years’ time I managed to write a dissertation about China and converse freely with the locals,’ he said.
His research project on defense studies prepared him for further academic training at King’s College of London, and he is planning to pursue further studies at the National Defense University of Korea.
‘My goal is to become an outstanding researcher in the field of defense,’ the budding scholar said.
In Soohyung’s view, lack of knowledge about China is a hindrance to anyone who wishes to become a truly global citizen. His international outlook would certainly open a broad vista for life’s many rewards and adventures.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018