In its fifth year, China study program at UW-River Falls slowly grows

Posted December 14, 2016

Started in 2012, the Experience China program during spring semester will see five students, from three different University of Wisconsin campuses, spend four months at Zhejiang International Studies University.

Based on the success of the Wisconsin in Scotland program, Experience China provides participants an education abroad opportunity in Zhejiang, which is located in the eastern part of the country.

“Experience China is one of our campus’s newest educational abroad programs,” said Kelsey Mclean, the program coordinator at UW-River Falls. “It began in the fall of 2012 and the idea was to replicate what had been a very successful model for us in Scotland.”

The program offers students a supportive environment and opportunities to travel to China with other students from through the UW System.

Students from other institutions also may participate.

“We had a student from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, who we had no relationship with, but she was able register as a temporary student through River Falls,” McLean said.

Katie Kracht, a senior agricultural business major at UWRF, participated in the Experience China program in fall 2013. She said studying abroad influenced her in many ways, including meeting new people and learning new things.

“First, I will just say it just gave me a new perspective from the other side of the world,” said Kracht.

Marilyn Kostuch, another senior agricultural business major who studied at Zhejiang in 2013, said the program allowed her to be more open-minded and further educated. However, difficulties were inevitable at the same time.

“The program really gave me perspectives on, like, how open you can be,” said Kostuch, “The street food, the way of living and just living in general. So that became a little difficult.”

Having participated in both Wisconsin in Scotland and Experience China, Kostuch said she thought the biggest difference was the maturity of the programs. The Scotland program is now three decades old. At the same time, group size made a difference to Kostuch. While there were fewer American students in Experience China program, she said she could meet international students from different countries.

“I felt like the Scotland program wasn’t as personal as the China program, because there were so much more culture shock and so much more in-depth conversation you could have about China,” added Kostuch.

The Experience China has made a few improvements over the past five years, including the addition of tours. Trips to Shanghai, Wuzhen, Beijing, Yellow Mountain and Xi’an are all arranged for this upcoming semester.

“Just this summer we reworked the program so that a lot more of those travel experiences are included already and they’re built in,” McLean said. “So previously it was just that students went for the semester and they had free time off to travel.”

McLean said that the Experience China program is open to all students. The total number of students who have participated to date is 43, from four different campuses.