Psychology students cross borders

ANU is an international university. Two of its programs have intersected in Canberra, Australia and Chongqing, China.

In 2015, ANU and Southwest University (SWU) in Chongqing launched a rare joint education program in Psychology.

Psychology lecturers from the ANU Research School of Psychology travel to China each semester to conduct intensive courses at SWU. Students at SWU have the option to stay in Chongqing and complete a four-year Bachelor degree, benefitting from the instruction of both SWU and ANU staff.

Or, if they meet academic and English language requirements, they may join the 2+2 Bachelor of Psychology program between the two universities. Those students study for two years at SWU and two years at ANU. They receive degrees from both universities.

The first cohort of students from SWU arrived in Canberra in September 2017.

Months earlier, in April 2017, 11 psychology students from ANU travelled in the other direction.

The group took a cross-cultural study tour, travelling to Chongqing for three weeks. In addition to enjoying a cultural immersion experience, the students conducted research projects in psychology.

In one research project, the ANU students conducted focus groups with the SWU students who were planning to transfer to ANU later in the year.

The young researchers took the unusual opportunity to find out about the attitudes and expectations for the incoming international students – before they arrived in Australia. As one student researcher reported, “A lot of research has been done on students that have already moved to study at a university, but not a lot has been done about students who are going to move and what their expectations are.” 

The data will give ANU student-support staff insight into how to better serve these and other international students who choose to study in an unfamiliar city and culture. Sue Cossetto, Sub Dean of student experience for the joint Colleges of Science, plans to conduct follow-up tests and questionnaires.

The cultural exchange had another, more personal benefit. When the SWU students arrived in Canberra months later, the ANU students they had met in Chongqing were on hand in a buddy system to help orient them to the new city and university.

In some ways, the SWU students have an advantage in transitioning to a new place, since they can make the adjustment to ANU as a group.

In her student blog, Stephanie Chen spoke of the benefits of coming to Australia with 25 other students from the 2+2 Bachelor of Psychology program. She said “There is a really strong connection between all of us. For the past two years in China, we’ve been living together, helping each other with life and discussing questions together every day.”

Stephanie also gave high marks to the welcome she received from ANU staff and other students. “During Orientation Week, we were warmly welcomed by a range of people. They have provided us with a sense of security, and I am 100% sure that they are there for us if we need to talk, or ask for help if we need it.”