In an age when technology is flourishing, international travel is higher than ever and educational possibilities are endless, Fort Hays State University and its Chinese partner, Sias International University, are collaborating on a unique study abroad program for Kansas students.
Undergraduate students at any of the six universities governed by the Kansas Board of Regents (Emporia State; Fort Hays State; Kansas State, including Salina; Pittsburg State; Kansas, including the Medical Center; and Wichita State universities) have the opportunity to spend an academic year studying at Sias starting in the fall 2008 semester.
The program includes 15 credit hours of tuition and fees per semester, room, board, books and expenses for eight major field trips including Beijing, Xian (pronounced sheON), Zhengzhou (pronounced JUNGjoe), Shanghai and other cities within Henan Province where Sias is located. It also includes two roundtrip airfares from Kansas to Zhengzhou, China, for students to visit home once during the program. All of this program is available for the cost of $12,000.
Carol Solko-Olliff, director of international and disabled students services at FHSU, said this program differs from most study abroad experiences because it is an "educational and cultural package" that includes guided tourism travel.
"The cultural experience will be as much of a benefit in educational experience as the actual courses the students will take," said Solko-Olliff.
FHSU student Chelsey Fisher, Hays senior, studied at Sias for four weeks over the summer. She said the university tries hard to mix Chinese and Western cultures. As the first solely American-owned university in central China, Sias is where "East meets West" and contains Western influence amidst the abundance of Chinese culture.
"The campus itself looked extremely different than the city," Fisher said. "Their administrative building on the front side is made to look like Tiananmen Square and on the back side it's made to look like the White House. It's all one building to show the ties between America and the Chinese."
She said the campus is about the same size as FHSU, but with 17,000 students. She described the campus as very pretty, with a river running through it.
The year-long program operates on the Chinese academic year. The fall semester is from September to December, and the spring semester is from February to June. Each semester, students will take seven credits of Chinese language, three credits of Chinese culture, three credits of FHSU courses or additional Sias courses and two credits of electives, such as Chinese painting, cooking, folk song, dance, martial arts or others. All courses are taught in English.
"They were very accommodating," said Fisher. "Just being over there, you're going to learn more than you can from a book with all the experiences and meeting people and seeing it first hand."
For FHSU students, the credits transfer as exchange courses. Students who take an applicable elective course may be able to receive a minor in Chinese. FHSU students are considered enrolled at FHSU and are still eligible to receive financial aid. Scholarships and grants through the Office of Student Affairs are available. Students from other Regents universities must contact their registrars and international studies offices for transcript and financial aid requirements and for guidance on transferrablility.
Select courses required for majors at students' home universities are available at Sias as well.
Students will live with other international students. Western food prepared by an American chef will be available. Other on-campus resources include a gymnasium, swimming pool, health clinic, banking facilities and numerous recreational activities. Sias also employs 100 foreign faculty members who are able to help international students.
"The people are really friendly and if you have anything you need or have any questions, they're going to help you," said Fisher.
Sias is located in Xinzheng (pronounced shinJUNG), a city of 300,000 people near the Yellow River in Henan Province. It is the birthplace of the first Chinese emperor and is rich in history and tradition, but the city is becoming more modern.
"Once we got out of Sias, not really anyone knew English, so we couldn't really make a lot of conversation, but we tried to get out and experience as much as we could away from the group as well as experiencing a lot in the group too," said Fisher.
She said she had to make cultural adjustments, such as getting used to people staring at her or wanting pictures, because they have never seen a foreigner.
"Everywhere we went, everyone would say hello, because it was the one English word they would know, but I don't know if they were shy or what, because we would walk past and then two seconds later, all of a sudden we would hear, 'Hello!' " said Fisher.
Students from any of the six Regents universities are eligible to apply. They must be full-time undergraduate students with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA and be able to pay the $12,000 cost. A one-semester, $6,000 option is available.
Thirty slots are available. The application deadline is March 31. Students from all Regents schools may submit applications to the Office of Student Affairs at FHSU, 600 Park St., Hays, KS 67601. Call (785) 628-4276 or visit www.fhsu.edu/internationalization/studyabroad.html for more information.
"I had no idea what I was getting myself into," said Fisher. "You should definitely go. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life."