UConn students from China face difficult obstacles while trying to continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the University is providing them an in-person classroom experience 7,300 miles from Connecticut, at East China Normal University in Shanghai and the University of Nottingham Ningbo.
There was an existing relationship between UConn and both institutions even before the pandemic, as the University of Nottingham Ningbo is a fellow member of Universitas 21, an international network of research-intensive institutions. UConn has been cultivating a partnership with East China Normal University since 2017, and the president of that university visited Storrs in 2019.
Approximately 450 UConn students, both returning and first-year students, took classes at the two universities in the fall semester and will continue to do so in the spring semester.
By taking classes in person and in China, the students are able to stay home and not have to worry about how long they would have to be away from their families due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. They also avoid taking UConn online courses in the middle of the night, due to the time difference and challenging internet issues in China.
“What makes UConn’s way to dealing with this issue unique is that the students are totally immersed in these universities,” says Associate Vice President for Global Affairs Yuhang Rong. “Some other universities handpicked only a set of courses their students could take. We vetted over 350 courses and worked with our UConn faculty to review syllabi, so the accepted courses would be equivalent to UConn courses. That way, when the students come back they will not be impeded in their academic progression.”
An advantage for first year students was that they were taking classes with older UConn students, who have already been to campus.
“The upperclassmen can share their experience of being in the education system in the United States versus being in the Chinese system,” says UConn Incoming Exchange Coordinator/Education Abroad Gabriella Santoro.
Rong calls Santoro the “hero” of this entire monumental effort, as she led the task of certifying the courses at the universities in China with the UConn faculty.