Twenty-six new students from Anhui Normal University in the Anhui Province near Shanghai, China, will begin junior-year classes at Brenau University in the 2017 fall term as part of the 2+2 partnerships between the universities.
These 26 students – among them 11 education majors and 15 English majors – will join the 18 Chinese students majoring in early childhood education who formed the first cohort at Brenau last year. That brings the total number of students from Anhui to 44.
Jordan Anderson, Brenau director of international students and programs, said these 44 students represent the first three of many new cohorts expected over the next several years.
“We also have an agreement with Anhui Normal University to bring design students to Brenau,” Anderson said. These students will be eligible to work toward an undergraduate degree in environmental design – an offshoot of Brenau’s long-standing interior design undergraduate and graduate programs – for students who do not require U.S. interior design professional certification in their careers. Anhui Normal University plans to begin enrolling students for the China portion of the program – the first two-year period – as early as the fall 2017 term.
Anhui Normal University was the first of three institutions from Anhui Province in eastern China to become a Brenau “+2 Partner Institution.” In addition to the agreements with ANU, Brenau has a separate agreement with Anhui University of Chinese Medicine – based in Hefei – for an undergraduate nursing program that is expected to begin as early as next fall.
Finally, Brenau has a 3+2 agreement with Anhui Business College that enables Chinese students who have completed the three-year program at their home institution to transfer to Brenau as juniors and complete Bachelor of Business Administration degrees in two years. The first cohort of between 15 and 30 students from the 100-year-old Chinese institution is scheduled to arrive on the Gainesville campus as early as August 2018.
“Since all of these 2+2 programs must receive approval from the Chinese government, they are not all that easy to come by,” said Brenau University President Ed Schrader. “I think that it is a testament to the high-quality of education Brenau provides that they have approved several of these programs for the university.”
All of the students pay a negotiated full tuition rate as well as room and board at the university. They all must have approved student visas, take all of their classes in English and meet Brenau’s stringent academic requirements for graduation. The latter does not seem to be a problem, said Anderson, since all of the first cohort of 18 that return in the fall term for their senior year at Brenau demonstrated “Dean’s List-caliber” performance in the classroom during their first year in Georgia.
Anderson is the principal designated school official at Brenau, meaning she is legally responsible for the immigration component of bringing international students to Brenau. She creates each student’s immigration document and takes the students step-by-step through the process, including how to make a visa appointment and what to expect in the appointment.
Anderson was also the brains behind the mentor program at Brenau, which educates a number of Brenau students on Chinese history and culture, brings them to China to meet the future Brenau students, and helps build relationships between Chinese and American Brenau students before they even arrive on campus.
“Before the first group arrived, Vice President for Student Services Amanda Lammers and I were very aware that a group of students coming from one place and living on campus could change the way our campus life looks,” Anderson said. “We wanted to make sure that not only were the new students able to acclimate, but we wanted to make sure our students were aware, willing and able to help them.”
For the last two years Anderson has taught CH100, an introductory course about Chinese history and culture and how to communicate with the incoming students based on their cultural perspectives. The CH100 students are interviewed before being accepted to the course, and the eight students accepted each year become ambassadors for the university, traveling to Anhui Province during the summer.
“They get a little bit of an understanding of what it feels like to be a foreigner in a new place they don’t know a ton about,” she said. “They also get to meet the students and become friends. That was a big part of this mentoring program, that the ANU students felt like they knew people before they got here. Then in the fall semester, the mentors meet with the students a few times a week to hang out or even just to check in with them.”
Anderson credits the Chinese students for “putting themselves out there” as soon as they arrive on campus.
“They really get involved,” she said. “Several joined BUGS, the Brenau University Garden Society, and I would see several of them at the shows and performances on campus. They got out and about in the community, and it became very normal to see them involved in something on campus.”
Anderson said she believes the university’s relationship with these Chinese institutions greatly benefits current Brenau students as well.
“The average Brenau student probably can’t travel the world, at least not in the next few years,” she said. “It’s not easy to go to the opposite side of the planet. It costs a lot of money and time. But I think this is a really good way of getting our students to understand it is possible. These students leave home for two years to get a degree in a foreign place in a foreign language. If they can do it, maybe our students will realize they can study abroad for a semester. I think and I hope that becomes a possibility for them. And, even if they never leave the country, the reality is our students in their future professions will need to have the skills to interact with people of other cultures and to understand other perspectives.”