1-2-1 Program gives students dual degree, study abroad experience

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Native Chinese students participating in the China 1-2-1 Program get the best of both worlds out of their college experience — the western and eastern worlds, that is.

The China 1-2-1 Program, a network of U.S. and Chinese universities that UW-Eau Claire joined in 2007, allows Chinese students to spend their first and last years of college at their home university in China and the two middle years at Eau Claire. They are then granted dual degrees from both universities — two bachelors’ degrees from two universities in just four years.

“The 1-2-1 program is attractive because I will be able to get two bachelors’ degrees from two colleges in four or five years,” Xunyang Zhang, a journalism major originally from Jinan, China, said.

Shu Cheng, the 1-2-1 program coordinator for the Center for International Education, adds that both degrees are valuable.

“The dual degree (gives students) a U.S. degree but they also get a Chinese degree, which is more practical in China,” Cheng said. “They get education in the U.S. and they get a full degree without having to spend a full four years here.”

Because of such benefits, the program is increasingly popular. Just four students participated the first year the program was offered, and that number has since jumped up to 21 students involved this year at Eau Claire.

Eau Claire started receiving students through the program in 2008, after being admitted to participate in the program in 2007. Currently, 17 participating universities in China send students to various universities in the U.S.

Participating students choose to study at Eau Claire for a variety of reasons. Site Chen, an accounting major from Xuzhou, China, chose Eau Claire primarily for its College of Business, but also for its climate: “The first time when I looked at the pictures of campus, I fell in love with it,” Chen said.“I really love snow. It makes everything feel like fairy tale and paradise.”

Participating Chinese students make the most of their time at Eau Claire through campus involvement and events. Chen said she has enjoyed her work as an International Peer Guide, teaching other international students how to understand and assimilate to American life while at the university, as well as volunteering at the International Folk Fair and teaching elementary school students Chinese folk dancing.

“Volunteering for the community (helps) me develop leadership and responsibility,” Chen said.

Zhang said he chose to do the 1-2-1 program is because it’s a less-expensive way to study abroad, which he makes the most of by participating in trips like the Civil Rights Pilgrimage. “I just need to spend two years (of) tuition fees to get my degree here,” Zhang said.

But while students are technically studying abroad for two years, they have some of the comforts of home.

“We come here as a group,” Zhang said, “so we can take care each other in an unfamiliar place.”

With the program becoming more popular, Cheng hopes it will continue to grow.

“The program brings a lot of Chinese students to the campus,” said Cheng, “They enrich our campus and community.”

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