Students from Georgetown and Chinese Universities Participate in Virtual Dialogue
Tensions between the United States and China coupled with global shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have created strain on international educational exchange. With both sides closing their borders, and harsh rhetoric being used at the top levels of government, open dialogue is more necessary than ever to foster understanding and improve relations.
In the spring of 2021, the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues launched a series of online student-to-student dialogues, with the goal of bringing students from the United States and China together for candid discussions on a variety of topics. Throughout April, a group of 15 Georgetown students selected through a competitive process engaged in dialogues with student groups from three leading Chinese institutions: Fudan University, Peking University, and Zhejiang University.
While faculty leaders on both sides were available to facilitate, discussions between the American and Chinese groups were student-led.
For each meeting, students on both sides exchanged questions of interest beforehand. During the 90-minute Zoom meetings, students took turns to present and comment on broader themes like global health, climate governance, and international trade. Following the short presentations, the students broke into small groups to spend time getting to know more about each other and share more in-depth thoughts on issues of mutual interest.
Emilia Game SFS’22 appreciated the flexibility of the format.
“This modular setting allowed us to maximize what we could take away from the dialogue and how we could prove that a student-led environment could make small yet significant strides to sensitize both sides of the U.S.-China relationship.”
Students in the Georgetown delegation also offered real-time feedback to the initiative, which helped refine the experience.
A Unique Experience
Despite not being able to meet in person, the participants in the student-to-student dialogue showed diligence, respect, creativity, and understanding during their discussions. Their experience has opened the door for continued conversation between U.S. and Chinese students during a period where exchanges are exceedingly rare.
Members of the Georgetown delegation shared the conviction that the dialogue process offered simple but profound lessons.
“One Chinese student shared his experience staying with a host family in the United States – his time in the United States was quite a culture shock and learning experience. But for me, these dialogues served the same role,” said Nadine Lin SFS’21.
I left the discussions surprised by how much I had learned about China’s cultural and political landscape, and how much there still was for me to learn.
Max Hamid SFS’22 is hopeful that the student participants can continue to foster understanding through dialogue.
“I was struck by the willingness by our Chinese counterparts to not only engage during the discussion, but to develop a long-term personal relationship so that we may continue our conversations outside of the dialogue.”
Over the past years, the initiative has launched several student programs to encourage communication and advance mutual understanding among students from the United States and China. Visit the U.S.-China initiative’s website to learn more about our engagement with students.
Read additional reflections from Georgetown students about the student-to-student dialogue on the initiative’s blog.