With Columbia’s recent opening of an office in Beijing, students here are looking for more opportunities to work and study in China.
One organization, Global China Connection, has expanded into a network of 33 university chapters, and continues to grow. Founded by two Columbia first-years, GCC is gearing up to host its first annual conference over the course of one school year.
Gavin Newton-Tanzer, CC ’12, and Derrick Fu, SEAS ’12, founded GCC with the initial intention of creating a safe, quality study-abroad program in China. Existing programs were “seriously deficient,” said Newton-Tanzer, president of GCC, who had an unpleasant experience abroad last summer.
But once Newton-Tanzer came to Columbia and met others interested in developing the program, the concept outgrew its limited study abroad purpose and adopted the goal of offering a meeting ground for students interested in China and Chinese issues.
“We realized that, more so than just study abroad programs, there is a need of this kind of network that can bring all of these people together—not just to facilitate language and cultural exchange, but also to provide a means for these people to get to know each other,” Newton-Tanzer said.
The mission of GCC falls into three categories: networking, education, and experience.
The networking aspect aims to bring people with similar interests together. Those interested in sustainable development in China, for instance, would be put in contact with one another—not just within Columbia, but also with students at Yale, Harvard, or the other American, Canadian, and British universities that participate in GCC.
“I think the network is something that makes GCC very unique,” said Fu, the director of the GCC network management team. “Gavin and I realized there was a void—there wasn’t an international network of students that could come together and share their ideas and aspirations for a change in China in the next era.”
The education aspect aims to foster language development and cultural awareness by allowing native Chinese to meet with Americans. The delegations and conferences GCC hosts are meant to encourage this type of exchange.
Its first conference, titled “A Glimpse of China’s Future,” will take place at Columbia on April 25 and will feature speakers and guests from Harvard, Cornell, Northwestern, Yale, and a number of other universities.
“The mission of our conference is uniting the U.S. and China,” said Timothy Liu, CC ’12 and director of the group’s business development team. “All of our panels and speakers are speaking about something related to China, and increasing education of American students about China.”
Lastly, GCC offers its members opportunities to experience China firsthand. Students can volunteer at Guang Ai, an orphanage in Beijing, or attend one of many customized programs, which involve internships, teaching English to Chinese students, or studying at a Chinese university.
GCC also offers a pre-orientation program for incoming first-years that involves a “two-week blitz in Beijing, where they get to spend some time volunteering, [gain] some experience with the Chinese language and a little bit of the local culture, and see if this is something they would be interested in genuinely pursuing in college,” Newton-Tanzer said.