The Duke MEM program has been visiting China each May for the past three years. Our visits are with admitted students, so the focus is on pre-arrival programing, rather than recruitment. We typically meet with 10-15 students in Beijing and 15-20 students in Shanghai. We hold one-on-one conversations with each student to give them an opportunity to ask us questions about MEM, Duke, Durham, the US, the job market, really anything! Some common questions are about whether to complete the program in 2 or 3 semesters, how to stay safe on campus, how to avoid bed bugs, how to navigate the US party culture, and whether or not they will need a car. These are not questions we would expect to get my email, so the in-person visits allow students to ask about things that might be worrying them, but they wouldn’t otherwise ask.
We also hold group sessions in each city, which typically feature a couple of current students as well as alumni. These sessions allow the incoming students to get a student’s perspective on the program and an alumni perspective on how the program has impacted their career. We also provide the students with suggestions and materials for summer preparation. We encourage the students to be thinking about preparing to use English on a daily basis, practicing networking, getting their resume and LinkedIn profiles ready, and sorting out some general moving logistics.
These trips have proven to be very helpful for us. We have found that students are generally more comfortable when they arrive and, in many cases, seemingly more open to new experiences. We have also seen a marked improvement in English communication skills and classroom participation. Additionally, the students are more willing to speak up when they have a question or concern, which means it’s easier for us to help them. Another HUGE benefit is that we get to better understand Chinese culture by being immersed in it for a few weeks. By doing this we become better at serving the needs of our Chinese student population.
Since we have had such a positive response to our pre-arrival programs, Jenny Johnson (Associate Director for Career Services) and I decided to put together a workshop for other universities to learn about our model. We were able to present our workshop at the WISE (Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement) Conference at Wake Forest University this past November. We focused on how our pre-arrival trips to China came to be, the improvements we have experienced since implementing these trips, and helping other universities determine if this type of investment would be beneficial for them. The session was met with a great response and a lot of positive feedback from universities all over the US (and even one on Australia!).
MEM staffers Jenny Johnson and Staci Thornton (Academic Coordinator) will be headed to Beijing and Shanghai this May for our fourth Pre-arrival programming trip to China. They are very excited to meet the incoming Chinese MEMers and to spend some time with alumni (all while eating delicious xiao long bao).