Going Into Exile

August 16th, 2012, 10:24 am PST by Greg

As I was just mentioning some kind of professional journey, I guess this blog post is overdue…

My department has a joint Dual Degree Program with Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. To be honest, I really had my doubts about the program when it was created, but the more I see, the more I like it. There have been some difficulties, but certainly an overall win for SFU and the CS department.

We have visited ZU twice. When we got back the last time, I decided to put my name on the list for the faculty exchange that is part of the program: every year one person from each school goes to the other for a semester.

I had imagined that there was a multi-year waiting list, and thus imagined that the offer was somewhat abstract. The program director responded with “how about next year?”

So, I’m going to China for the ZU summer 2013 semester: end of February to start of July.

I’ll be teaching two courses when I’m there: a discrete math course for DDP students (those originating from both the Canadian and Chinese sides), and a web development course much like CMPT 470.

The discrete math course should be easy enough. I have taught MACM 101 here, and the course is basically that with a little extra. The Canadian students are just going to be thankful that I’m speaking English. The Chinese students are going to be worried about the English, not the math.

The CMPT 470-like course should be… interesting. First of all, the DDP students are already at SFU by fourth year, so the students in the course will just be rank-and-file ZU students. They won’t be the special cohort with extra motivation to learn English, and an international outlook. Just senior CS students who are willing to give a shot to a course that some foreign instructor is teaching in English.

Problems I see arising: (1) the whole development world at ZU seems to be focused around the big-vendor tools: Java, C#, C++, Visual Studio, etc. I’m going to arrive and insist on Ruby or Python (or similar), since that’s the way things are done in my world. (2) These students have spent their whole lives behind the firewall, and we’ll likely have pretty different ideas of what good web sites are.

Basically, I’m alternating between “wow, what a wonderful opportunity” and “what the hell have I gotten myself into?”

One Response to “Going Into Exile”

  1. Curtis Lassam Says:

    Wow, what a wonderful opportunity… what the hell have you gotten yourself into?