During the Spring 2019 semester I participated in the latest edition of AUI’s International Field Seminar, accompanying nine students to Beijing.
The international Field Seminar is a semester-long undergraduate course that deals with an array of social and cultural issues particular to a given foreign city or region. It is part of AUI’s Liberal Arts core curriculum but also serves our International Studies program. Past editions of the International Field Seminar I have participated in include New York City in 2011 and Istanbul in 2012.
This spring’s Beijing Field Seminar was the work of Prof. Zaynab El Bernoussi (Dr. Z to our students). Dr. El Bernoussi had originally planned to organize a seminar around Hong Kong, where she had pursued graduate studies. However, no university in Hong Kong was prepared to host our group (cover housing costs) for a week, making the seminar far too expensive for our students. Into this crisis of sorts stepped Beijing’s China Foreign Affairs University.
The China Foreign Affairs University was created in 1955 by Premier Zhou Enlai, the People’s Republic of China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time. Not only did CFAU very graciously offer to house our group, it also assigned several seriously fun graduate students to accompany us in the field and hired a van to take us around Beijing–no small gift given traffic congestion in a city of 24,000,000 people.
Happily for us, we were accommodated on the university’s old campus, in Zhanlanlu district (just east of the 2nd ring road), very near the center of the city.
CFAU’s new campus, which opened in 2012, is in Shahezhen, on Beijing’s northern outskirts (6th ring road). We went there on two occasions, to address students in the English and in the French departments.
Otherwise, most of our time was devoted to tourism and cultural activities. This is what some of that looked like:
Whatever nine AUI students may have taken away from this seminar, Dr. El Bernoussi and I hope to build on the experience. First, we have offered to reciprocate, inviting CFAU to bring a group of its students to Morocco for a visit, maybe even as early as this coming October, in shâ’ Allâh. More long-term, we would like to be able to offer some kind of joint graduate program, with Moroccan students completing a year of advanced International Relations studies in Beijing while CFAU students come to Ifrane for advanced studies of the Middle East-North Africa.