Image Credit: Dan Kugler
When China native Cuiyun Wu decided to leave her homeland to study agricultural and resource economics at the University of Maryland, she did not anticipate just how transformative her experience would be.
“The most challenging thing for me was to be away from my family and to study in languages other than Chinese,” says Wu, who started studying at UMD in 2012.
Wu came to UMD through the College of Agricultural and Natural Resources’ 2+2 program, which allows academically talented students to study two years at a university in China followed by two at UMD. Students earn degrees from both institutions upon completing the program.
Wu received her B.S. degree in 2014 in agricultural and natural resource economics and by that time, had developed a new appreciation for American culture and lasting friendships.
“My favorite memory was group projects with classmates,” says Wu. “I learned how to raise my opinions confidently without being offensive and how to walk out of my comfort zone.”
The College of AGNR became the first within the University of Maryland to develop a 2+2 program in 2008. To date, more than 60 students have received degrees through the program and another 50 are currently enrolled. Just this fall, the College took steps to expand the exchange program yet again, signing agreements with both China Agricultural University (CAU) and Xiamen University to allow students to focus their studies on environmental science – a new area for the 2+2 program.
“Either of these agreements could double the number of 2+2 students at AGNR, [and] together, the two agreements could triple the enrollment,” said Dan Kugler, Assistant Dean for Special Programs at the College of AGNR.
With the addition of Environmental Science & Technology, 2+2 students can now choose from a total of five departments in which to major. The others are Agricultural and Resource Economics, Animal and Avian Sciences, Nutrition and Food Science, and Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.
While the College of AGNR had a previous agreement with CAU, the partnership with Xiamen University is brand new. Kugler says the benefits of expanding the exchange program extend to both continents. “Students from China benefit from experiencing an inquiry-based education style and cultural immersion. U.S. students benefit from diversity and cross-cultural exchange with Chinese students,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wu, who now works as the International Programs assistant coordinator for the College of AGNR, says she’s glad the 2+2 program is expanding so that more students can take advantage of the same opportunities she had.
“Compared to other Chinese students who did not have these kind of experiences, I have a more diversified background and I have access to really amazing resources here such as libraries and experienced professors,” Wu says. "[Plus,] UMD is in a very good location because of its proximity to USDA, JIFSAN and other governmental or non-governmental agencies in DC, which means a lot of internship opportunities.”
“My advice to interested students is that you can only truly understand what I am talking about if you take this opportunity and live in it.”
Find more information about the 2+2 program with Chinese universities here.