St. Olaf College | News

Students celebrate international cooperation with Project Pengyou

St. Olaf students Kyle Obermann ’14 (left) and Andy Switzer ’14 were among 40 U.S. students selected to attend the Project Pengyou conference at Harvard University.

Inspired by a conference they were invited to attend at Harvard University, St. Olaf College students Kyle Obermann ’14 and Andy Switzer ’14 are forming a new group on campus to celebrate international cooperation between the U.S. and China.

The conference was sponsored by Project Pengyou — which means “Project Friendship” in English — an international organization focused on improving U.S.-Chinese relations through the grassroots organization of young Americans and by providing youth with resources to study in China.

Project Pengyou is also part of President Barack Obama’s 100K Strong campaign, which aims to send 100,000 U.S. students to study in China.

Obermann and Switzer were two of 40 U.S. students selected to attend the conference at Harvard, with travel funded by the St. Olaf Political Science and Asian Studies departments.

After working with Project Pengyou, Switzer and Obermann decided to bring the organization’s mission to St. Olaf. The seniors formed the first national chapter of Project Pengyou. In addition, Obermann and Switzer hope to eventually form a collaboration with other schools, beginning with Carleton College.

“We’d like to start networking with Carleton and build a relationship between our Chinese departments,” says Obermann. “Hopefully Carleton will be able to start its own chapter and we can make Northfield a center for promoting U.S.-China understanding, exchange, and cooperation in Minnesota.”

Obermann has been following Project Pengyou since his experience studying Chinese-U.S. relations during an exchange program in New Zealand and a summer spent traveling in China.

“When I found out they were having an inaugural conference at Harvard to train young leaders to advance U.S.-Chinese exchange and cooperation, I immediately jumped at the chance,” Obermann says. “The conference was a great way to wrap up everything I’ve been doing here the past four years.”