Chinese students (left to right) Ning Yang, Yuyi Zhou and Shuai Yuan find that university life in Canada is far different than their home university in China.

First dual degree students from Zhejiang

July 10, 2008

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By Barry Shell
Correction Appended

"Life here is easy," says Kefu Zhao, 21, a student in SFU’s dual-degree computer science program. "I see relaxed people working in their flower gardens," a rare sight in his hometown of Shenzhen, China. Classmate Xiao Yuan Xu agrees: "In China it’s more intense, more rushed."

The two are part of a group of nine students from China studying at SFU, the first of 70 enrolled in a unique dual-degree program that confers two bachelor degrees in computing science, one from SFU and the other from Zhejiang University (ZU). The program also includes 21 Canadian students who are studying at Zhejiang.

Dual degrees mean double the employment options after graduation, and two different teaching styles.

"In Canada there are fewer courses during a term, but you go much deeper into subjects," says Shuai Yuan. Faculty exchange is another program bonus. Three professors from SFU and two from ZU have taught at the other institution. Now in its third year, the program has evolved. It became apparent that the Chinese students’ English was better than the Canadian students’ Chinese. "These intelligent Chinese students complete courses at an accelerated rate," says Vivian Chu, program coordinator. ZU students complete the program in four years while Canadian students without Chinese language skills take an extra year to learn Mandarin.

Some students had to overcome problems obtaining visas. "They have to show they can pay $15,000/year foreign tuition plus room and board for two years," says professor Stella Atkins. But top students receive SFU entrance scholarships of $5,000 or $10,000 and all are eligible for SFU co-op jobs, which provide valuable contacts, experience and financial support.

The Chinese students are only-children from families that put a high value on education. When asked what surprised them about Canada, they point to multiculturalism. "My English teacher is from India," says Yuan who has professors from Iran, Russia and the UK. Another eye-opener has been Canadian students’ love of pubs and clubbing. Xiao Yuan Xu, 21, says, "I’ve never been to a bar at all." On July 21, SFU will host top-level officials from Zhejiang University for a program review. More: www.cs.sfu.ca/SFU-ZU/.

Correction: July 10, 2008
The original, print version of this story mistakenly ran under the headline: "1st dual degree students from Shenzhen". Although one of the participants is from Shenzhen, SFU's Chinese partner for this dual-degree program is actually Zhejiang University. This is reflected in the corrected headline: "First dual degree students from Zhejiang".
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