The Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) enables select U.S. college students to partner with Tsinghua University students and faculty in ongoing poverty alleviation projects located in some of China's most impoverished regions. Participants live and work together in small teams as they assist the local staff of distance learning centers established by Tsinghua University in 25 of China's provinces.
Equipped with the latest satellite and internet capacities for distance learning, Tsinghua's distance learning centers offer a wide range of educational resources for diverse audiences. The primary task of SSLP participants is teaching conversational English to local teachers and students. The SSLP adds a significant new dimension to China's vocational training capabilities by reaching traditionally uneducated sectors of many rural areas. The SSLP enables new audiences to benefit from direct access to conversational English instruction from U.S. speakers. At the same time, the program helps U.S. participants learn first-hand about the real China by delivering community services on a personal level. U.S. students also have the opportunity to conduct research in areas of their academic interest.
U.S. participants attend a one-week orientation program in Beijing where they meet their Chinese student counterparts, learn about Chinese culture and current poverty alleviation issues, and develop plans for implementing their service project. Students then travel to their assigned projects, accompanied by their Tsinghua counterparts, and reside for two to three weeks in local accommodations provided by the distance learning center.
Returnees consistently report that while their service-learning duties in the field may have ended, the personal transformations that began there continue to grow more profound as each day passes. What happened during those short but fertile weeks of service, when the line between teachers and learners often crossed or blurred, clearly changed lives and destinies in ways that will only grow more evident and promising.
For those who ask, “How did your being there make any difference?” there are literally hundreds of inspiring answers; and each one resonates with a profound personal awareness of the solutions necessary to shape a more just, peaceful and sustainable global future.