Asian Conversations Program expanded to two-year course sequence
Incoming first-year students will have even more opportunities to participate in St. Olaf College’s Conversation Programs as they begin looking forward to their first year on the Hill. Beginning in the 2021–22 academic year, the Asian Conversations program will expand from one to two years of programming, specifically tailored to students with an interest in Asian cultures and languages.
The program, established in 1998, uses an interdisciplinary approach centered on China and Japan. The Asian Conversations course series focuses on history, art, religion, literature, current events, and more. The program even includes a faculty-led experiential Interim in China and Japan during students’ sophomore year.
The program’s director, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Director of Chinese Ka Wong, explains that while students have diverse interests and backgrounds, they are unified around their interest in Asian culture. “Our students in general are interested in better understanding Asian languages and cultures, and appreciate the opportunities to experience them not merely inside but also outside of the classroom,” he says. “They are adventurous, open-minded, and intellectually curious young people who want to see and know more about the world at large, yet most importantly, they are empathetic and enthusiastic individuals who desire responsible, critical, and meaningful global engagements.”
The Asian Conversations Program is also a great way for students to fulfill St. Olaf’s general education requirements. In addition to fulfilling their language requirements in either Chinese or Japanese, students will fulfill a large portion of the requirements toward graduation, including all the traditional first-year requirements. With the flexibility this adds to junior and senior course schedules, students have completed internships or even taken jobs in China and Japan.
We encourage all of the students in our program to acquire knowledge through studying critically, thoughtfully, and broadly about Asia, while developing linguistic competency, cross-cultural communication skills, and empathy for others, for we view those as the keys to becoming truly global and responsible citizens.Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Director of Chinese Ka Wong
In many ways, the program reflects similar goals to St. Olaf’s liberal arts curriculum as a whole. “We encourage all of the students in our program to acquire knowledge through studying critically, thoughtfully, and broadly about Asia, while developing linguistic competency, cross-cultural communication skills, and empathy for others, for we view those as the keys to becoming truly global and responsible citizens,” says Wong. He also notes that students often find their core group of friends in the program, united by their common interests and coursework.
For students in search of greater exposure to Asian culture, additional career opportunities, or a deeper understanding of an increasingly globalized world, the Asian Conversations Program offers a unique opportunity. With a broad, thought-provoking curriculum and the freedom for students to explore their own interests and connections to Asia, future Oles can expect to find the best of St. Olaf through these courses, experiences, and connections.