Irene Lin, a shy 16-year-old, sits down at the table and smiles wide, her braces glistening and her face beaming with excitement. It’s her first time away from home – Taichung, a popular city in central Taiwan known for its rich culture, lush landscapes and historic landmarks.
Lin is at UC San Diego with 21 of her classmates from Washington High School – located in the mountains outside Taichung – as part of the charter school’s Overseas Preparatory Program. The students are participating in a first-time program between their school and UC San Diego Extension’s Academic Connections, a pre-college program that connects high achieving high school students with a variety of college-level courses led by graduate students in a wide array of academic disciplines, as well as renown UC San Diego faculty researchers.
The new U.S. Business Studies Program, part of Academic Connections International, is a three-week summer camp that provides instruction in various business topics and in business English instruction as well as various cultural and recreational activities. The program’s goal is to enhance the students’ communication and cultural competencies, with an emphasis on improving their knowledge and awareness of U.S. business concepts and practices. The Taiwan students participated in the program in July.
Lin, who will be in eleventh grade this fall, said she not only learned important basic business and professional skills but also, more importantly, gained new skills and independence.
“At first I was very nervous. There are a lot of different people here that I have never seen before; their appearance is different than mine,” she said. “After I started to join the activities, I felt more comfortable and I met more people and had conversations with them. I would like to major in biology, and then go to medical school. So, it’s good for me to have interactions with people because it is good practice for communicating with (future) patients.”
Breaking barriers and facing her fears has made Lin more confident about her future.
“Here the professors want you to be active and advocate for yourself. You have to be more active and have better time management and take care of yourself and learn to care about other people’s time,” said Lin, who wants to go to college in California. “This has been a good journey for me to have a good first impression for studying abroad so I won’t be afraid to be on a university campus.”
Fellow classmate Laurence Chen has the same sentiments. The 16-year-old said the Taiwan Academic Connections business studies program is a good opportunity for students to blend into college life and meet new people.
“I know at UC San Diego they say diversity matters, and there are a lot of people here with different backgrounds. Through this program, I have been able to meet people with different nationalities and learn more about their cultures and lifestyles,” said Chen, who attended all the Frisbee meetups during the program. “I made a lot of friends, and I hope to keep in contact with them when I go back to Taiwan.”
Academically, Chen feels more prepared for his future college life as well as his future career and life in general.
“We have learned different skills like negotiating and résumé writing and preparing for the workforce. These are skills you can use for your whole life,” said Chen. “I know how to manage my time better between play time and study time, which is important in college. I also learned how to communicate better with people I don’t know.”
Wendy Ke, one of the two chaperones from Washington High School, said the UC San Diego Extension program is part of the school’s mission to provide international experiences to its students.
“We are trying to bring the world to our students,” said Ke, adding that the school has also sent students to Japan, England and Australia. “The UC San Diego program is a good opportunity for students who want to study in the U.S. to see what it’s like. When they go out in the real world, they will need to make new friends and cooperate with others and have teamwork. In the past, they were taught to be competitive, but now they are learning how to work in a team environment.”
Washington High School plans to further broaden its partnership with UC San Diego Extension by making the U.S. Business Studies Program a graduation requirement starting next year.
For Ed Abeyta, the assistant dean for community engagement and the director of pre-college programs at UC San Diego Extension – partnerships like the one with Washington High School provide a real world platform for future generations.
“We’re setting the stage to have a true globally engaged program,” said Abeyta. “We’re here help students uncover and discover new knowledge – not just academically but also about themselves. It is part of Extension’s larger mission to prepare people of all ages for a constantly changing world. By mixing all these students from different backgrounds, we are able to help them appreciate and embrace diversity to help improve our global village.”
For more information about Academic Connections, please visit http://academicconnections.ucsd.edu/.