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Building International Bridges

Building International BridgesEvery year, the Tufts Initiative for Leadership and International Perspective enables students from Tufts to collaborate with Chinese counterparts to study key global issues.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.05.07] For Tufts student Marissa Maren, working alongside student fellows from China through the Tufts Initiative for Leadership and International Perspective (TILIP) program helped her understand not only the differences between their two cultures, but also the similarities.

"We're all obsessed with the Internet," the junior engineering major said about American and Chinese students. "We check our e-mail constantly."

Much of that communication was put to work organizing the ninth annual TILIP symposium, entitled "Asia's Rising Giants: China and India," which took place Feb. 22-25.

The symposium is the annual culmination of all the research, education and experience accumulated throughout the program by student fellows from Tufts and the three participating Chinese universities-Peking University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong.

Run out of Tufts' Institute for Global Leadership (IGL), the program seeks to shape the students into a generation of new leaders educated through intellectual inquiry, cultural exchange and dynamic work experience. In total, seven Tufts students and nine students from China and Hong Kong participated in TILIP this year.

For Maren, the program presented a unique and exciting opportunity to study abroad. "The program itself is so diverse, and there's so much cultural exchange going on," she said.

TILIP holds an equally strong appeal at its partner universities. Henry Daizhuo Chen, a junior at Peking University, said that he was drawn to TILIP because of its elite reputation.

Heather Barry, associate director of IGL, explained that TILIP's student fellows have completed a rigorous selection process and represent the best and brightest from their respective universities.

"The program is very selective. Last year, over 200 students applied for the five spots available at Peking University," Barry said.

The high standard of selection was evident to Maren.

"The student fellows that I was around were really the best, the cream of the crop of their universities," she said.

According to Barry, TILIP alumni have gone on to win Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships, as well as hold prestigious positions in finance, foreign service and other elite fields.

The work students put into TILIP begins months before the annual symposium. Last summer, the American and Chinese student fellows participated in internships in Hong Kong with companies including the Hong Kong-Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Hong Kong Tourism Ministry.

After a trip to mainland China at the end of the summer, where participants attended a two-week seminar on urbanization in Shanghai that also included additional students from China and India, the TILIP fellows returned to their respective universities to start planning and organizing the symposium. This year's program included an additional trip to India during winter break to help students understand India's rise as an economic and political giant in Asia.

In February, the student fellows from mainland China and Hong Kong traveled to the United States to join their counterparts at Tufts in conducting the symposium. The student fellows and IGL recruited experts from across China, India and the U.S. to speak on topics such as energy policy, economics and security studies. Next year, TILIP organizers expect to continue including India in their programming.

Chen, who interned at the Hong Kong International Airport, said that he was "amazed" at the kinds of opportunities he had through TILIP.

"Last night, I was in my room when I realized that through this program alone, I had traveled to 14 different cities in three countries," Chen said during the symposium.

As an engineering student, Maren found that TILIP had much to offer those who are not studying international relations. "Even though I had never taken any classes on IR, political science or economics, I was just learning so much from the people around me and learning everything so fast," Maren said. "You really learn to see everything through an academic lens."

Her experience is not uncommon, said Tufts senior Jason Lau, who participated in the TILIP program last year. He said he not only learned in-depth knowledge about China, but also gained new friends from the country.

"It was one of the best things that happened to me at Tufts," Lau said. "[TILIP] really opens the door to a continuous learning process."

-- Robert Anthony C. Siy, III A'10

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