International Virtual Student Exchange brings new opportunities

In an effort to increase opportunity and access to global learning as outlined in our Strategic Plan for Internationalization, UC Santa Cruz is participating in an online virtual course exchange (VSE) through our membership in the Association of Pacific-Rim Universities (APRU).

Launched in fall 2021, this program provides UCSC students with the opportunity to enroll in one online academic course offered by some of the top institutions in the world as a complement to their full-time course load taken at UCSC. In exchange, students from APRU member universities are invited to enroll in select online courses at UCSC.

In fall 2021, professor Minghui Hu offered his online course in Global Environmental History to be part of the virtual exchange, and nine students enrolled from different universities around the Pacific Rim. Professor Hu’s course provides a comprehensive overview of global environmental history from prehistoric times to the present.

“A student studying at one of these top global universities might feel that there is little reason to physically leave the comforts of their society. They would, however, like to take UC-caliber upper-division courses and challenge themselves with international perspectives,” Hu said. “That’s when we see a major impact on learning and an opening of eyes.”

Hu was interested in participating in the APRU Virtual Exchange program opportunity because of the insights into the benefits of international education that he gained from his experience as a Senate member and chairing the Senate Committee on Admission and Financial Aid (CAFA). Additionally, his service as a member and chair of the Committee on International Education (CIE) ignited a curiosity about international student perspectives and collaboration in the classroom.

“Through an arrangement such as APRU Virtual Exchange, we learn so much from how international institutions teach and design curriculum. Their students operate and think in unique, non-American ways,” Hu said. “That institutional diversity is very important to faculty and students and is a primary reason we should participate in this program.”

Exchanges, by design, allow faculty to develop relationships with new students that can influence future academic opportunities and research endeavors. Through a virtual exchange, students – many of whom are highly academically motivated and may be interested in graduate study – can make connections with faculty that otherwise might not have been possible.

“What fascinates me as an Asian historian is that I know the places students are coming from. I want to study these places, see some of the differences, and gain insight into what’s influencing them. I also have an opportunity to explore opportunities for these students as future graduate students at UCSC,” Hu said.

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