Students study in China as part of HTM program

Tianjin, China Campus

By: Deborah Souverain and Devon Johnson / Student Media Staff

Tianjin, China Campus

The closest most FIU students get to China is the ”Made in China” tags on their backs or pseudo Chinese restaurants that happen to be more American than Chinese; however, for 11 FIU students,  China has become their home away from home.

Since 2006, FIU’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management has held a study abroad program in Tianjin, China at The Tianjin University of Commerce (TUC), the first university of China.

“This is actually my first time participating in a study abroad program, and so far, I’m loving it. China’s culture is completely different from ours back home, but in the three weeks we’ve been here, we’ve learned to appreciate it a lot,” said Astrid Garcia, junior hospitality management student.

A joint venture between FIU and TUC, The Marriott Tianjin China program was originally designed for Chinese students who wanted to major in Hospitality via enrollment with FIU without having to leave their hometown and come to the US.

Once Chinese students complete their core curriculum courses during their first two years at TUC, if they choose to major in Hospitality, they are “transferred” to FIU. These students then complete their degree at the Marriott Tianjin China Program, FIU’s $100 million, 450,000 sq. ft. facility conveniently on the campus of TUC.

Doors were opened to FIU students a little over 5 years ago, allowing students to participate in the program in china.

According to Dawn Fagnan, the Enrollment Manager for the school of Hospitality & Tourism Management, the Fall 2011 group of FIU students heading to China is the largest group to go since 2007, where 12 students participated in the program.

“The program opened in 2006,” said Dawn Fagnan.“And there are over 700 Chinese students who are enrolled at the Marriott Tianjin China Program.”

Students who are interested in studying abroad pay in-state tuition during their semester abroad, including athletic fees; however, parking and health fees are omitted.

“We’ve never had to turn down any student who wanted to go,” said Fagnan.

The program is not limited to Hospitality majors, in fact, past students from the schools of Public Relations, Political Science and Business have participated.

The Marriott Tianjin China Program counts as a minor for students outside of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, and these students, once a part of the program, register for any four courses of their liking.

Class choices offer all of the core classes on the hospitality track sheet, but elective courses are limited. The program, which lasts four months, is taught in English and students are not required to learn any of the Chinese dialects during their study abroad; however, many students chose to learn about the Chinese culture and languages before starting the program.

“The only obligation that the students have is to go through an informational interview,” said Fagnan. “The student must be adventurous and love to travel.”

According to Fagnan, the interview is fairly casual and functions to test the student’s awareness of what they are getting themselves into. Part of the interview focuses on the student’s health and diet.

“The food menus in China have many difficult characters, so sometimes students may randomly choose food to eat and should be cautious if they have any allergies. The air in China is not the best. There was one student who participated in the program a previous semester who had asthma; He got sick because of the air and had to be hospitalized,” said Fagnan.

The cost of the study abroad package is $6,000. The package includes international transportation (round trip airfare and airport transfers in China), double-occupancy housing, health insurance, visa processing, a guided tour of Tianjin, and study abroad fees. FIU in-state tuition, books, food, and personal expenses are not included in the package.

Accommodations are provided on-campus at the FIU-TUC Center in the 20-story residence hall. Study Abroad students live on the sixth floor and are paired two to a room. Single rooms are available by request at an additional expense. Every room is equipped with a private bath, A/C, Internet access, and TV. Kitchens are not included.

“From the reports of previous students who participated in the program, they would love to do it again, and they are willing to advertise and recruit others to study abroad as well,” said Fagnan.

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