The physical divide that exists between Shenzhen, China and Phnom Penh, Cambodia has been mitigated by nonstop flights and social media, bridging the gap which stretches across the South China Sea. As a result, the development of cooperative educational, economic and environmental partnerships has reached outside of the boardrooms and into the classrooms of respective universities, looking for ways to implement creative and innovative ideas into the minds of students before they take their seat at the corporate table. Cross-cultural educational exchanges offer opportunities whereby students and teachers can learn about the complexities of life in different countries while at the same time working collectively on finding solutions to common problems both inside as well as outside the classroom.
Through research, innovation and entrepreneurship, the university I teach at, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), has a goal to become a top-tier international university which attracts scholars and students from across the globe focusing on interdisciplinary research. With both undergraduate and graduate programs which emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, SUSTech is looking beyond borders to attract the best and brightest students to continue their studies in a dynamic learning environment. Last month in Phenom Penh, Cambodia, I had the chance to work with my university’s Global Engagement Office on a recruiting and interview trip whereby we met with local students and educators about the opportunity to study in Shenzhen, where they can be taught by international professors surrounded by a global city. For Cambodian university students, this affords them the prospect of expanding their educational, personal, and professional horizons, learning from world-class instructors while coupling their newfound knowledge with practical applications in one of the fastest growing cities on the planet. For SUSTech, it helps to expand the global framework of their student-body, giving credence to the notion of internationalization, and the benefits which it brings to everyone involved.
The dichotomy between Chinese and Cambodian education is decreasing as our world becomes smaller and more globalized. Innovative curriculum development paired with creative teaching pedagogy has gone to increase matriculation in both countries, in turn paving the road for sustainable growth as it pertains to the economy. No one country acts as a model for the other, rather both China and Cambodia trade cultural and educational ideas, learning from one another much the same way students pair on a class project. University scholarships, such as the one which SUSTech offers Cambodian students, underscore the importance of this bilateral partnership, with keen eyes peering towards the future where these ideas are rewarded with success.
Much like myself, an American teaching in China, the Cambodian students we interviewed understand the benefits of leaving one’s homeland for different cultural and educational opportunities overseas. It isn’t that one country is better than the other, instead, it is the comprehension that the unique and varying perspectives we have as global citizens is what ultimately adds to the collective dialogue we wish to engage in together. Similarly for these students, when they interact with their professors and classmates at Southern University of Science and Technology, they will help create a platform which is receptive to new educational ideas from different cultures, highlighting the model already in place between China and Cambodia.