YSU Psychology Department Shares Dynamic Study Abroad Experiences

Youngstown State University and Sichuan Normal University students pose in front of a Confucius statue in China. Photo courtesy of Shawn Williams/The Jambar

By Brianna Gleghorn

With 10 Youngstown State University students and two YSU faculty members, a group representing the Department of Psychology traveled to China for a 10-day study abroad trip filled with visiting local schools, seeing cultural sites and spending the evenings exploring the city.  

A partnership was formed between YSU students and Sichuan Normal University students, giving them the ability to work one-on-one and translate the language while visiting the school. 

YSU students were able to have discussions on the cultural differences and similarities they noticed when working with other students. 

Ying Joy Tang, assistant professor of psychology, said the trip was a “resounding success” both educationally and socially.

“Everyone had a wonderful time in every aspect of the experience,” Tang said. “Educationally, we learned a lot about education in China, … We also had a lot of fun; they got to experience a lot of cultural varieties.”

In Tang’s opinion, psychology is about people, and learning in a different country helps widen the mindset of the field.

“The cultural spin is fundamental to psychology students because it really broadens our perspective on human behaviors, which is a necessity to anyone studying psychology in this day and age,” Tang said.

Tang said although this was the department’s first study abroad trip, it won’t be the last.

“We’re also going to consider the broader social context,” Tang said. “So considering families, teachers, family dynamics related to culture and education.”

YSU students who partake in the upcoming study abroad program will be given the opportunity to conduct their own cross-cultural research and collect data while in the field.

Youngstown State University and Sichuan Normal University students pose in front of a Confucius statue in China. Photo courtesy of Shawn Williams/The Jambar

Jeffrey Coldren, chair of the psychology department, said he believes the trip was an opportunity for students to look at the education systems in China and the United States.

“It’s really magical when teaching goes beyond the intended purpose and takes on its own life,” Coldren said. “So it was really great to see the interaction, the dialogue and the exchange of ideas between the students at both universities.”

According to Coldren, the trip was “the most fulfilling educational experience” he’s ever been involved in.

“What was really rewarding was the way our students and the students from [Sichuan Normal University] really connected and collaborated to very interesting discussions,” Coldren said. 

Thomas Ford, a senior psychology major, said the trip taught him that while the cultures of China and the U.S. are different, there were several similarities.

“One of the important things about going on this trip was getting to realize not only how similar but also how different these cultures can be when they’re not the one you’re used to,” Ford said. 

According to Ford, there were times when the students would notice similarities and differences and have discussions about it afterward. 

“When we weren’t in a classroom setting, it was really just building these relationships,” Ford said. “There’s a lot of autonomy involved in it and getting a chance to just meet new people and make new friends.”

The second trip for the department is planned for May 2020 with a similar theme, combining education and culture.