Senior Yongfang Chen's book "A True Liberal Arts Education" has entered its second printing, generating widespread interest in the College among both American and Chinese audiences.
Chen's book was published last May, selling 8,000 copies in three months following its first printing. Figures from the second printing will be available in June 2010.
The book is written in Chinese and aims to "disseminate the concept of a liberal arts education to a Chinese audience," said Chen '10.
Recently, the book was cited in a New York Times report on the increasing number of international students entering American higher education. At Bowdoin, the number of international students has been relatively stable, with 6 percent entering in the Class of 2013 compared to 7 percent in the Class of 2012.
"Bowdoin tries to diversify the types of Chinese students it accepts," said Chen.
Ren Ding '13, an international student from China, read "A True Liberal Arts Education" prior to arriving at Bowdoin.
"My parents asked me to read the book to get familiar with Bowdoin before I got here," said Ding. "People don't know much about liberal arts schools in China."
Ding said that with time, "I think the book is going to be more and more popular."
Chen wrote "A True Liberal Arts Education" in conjunction with two other Chinese students from Bucknell University and Franklin and Marshall College. The book aims to provide a comprehensive picture of a typical liberal arts education in its descriptions of life at various institutions.
Chen said that in China, "the word 'college' has a negative meaning," connoting technical schools or community colleges.
"Only America has a university and college system," he said, referencing the competition between the two types of academic institutions.
Ding added that in China, "more and more people are applying to liberal arts colleges...I think that many who are admitted to liberal arts schools go because they believe the undergraduate education is better."
Ding reported that he felt he had received individual attention in his classes, which may not be available at larger universities.
On "A True Liberal Arts Education," Ding said, "the book is true to [Chen's] experience at Bowdoin."
Before arriving on campus in the fall of his first year, Chen said he knew nothing about Bowdoin; he applied early decision to the College "on a whim."
Initially, Chen said it was very hard for him to adjust to academics at Bowdoin; "I was very challenged in English reading and writing...In China, we weren't instructed to challenge [assumptions], but Bowdoin dismisses the idea that you should accept ideas."
The book aims to help Chinese students and parents understand the concept of a liberal arts education. Chen said that the difference between Bowdoin and larger universities stems mainly from "the interaction with professors and the in-depth research opportunities." At larger schools, the environment "is not so intimate," while Bowdoin's close-knit community "ensures that students get what they want," Chen said.
The student-faculty ratio at Bowdoin has decreased in recent years; when Chen entered the College in 2006 the ratio was 10:1, whereas currently it is 9:1.
On the merits of Bowdoin, Chen said that the College "pushes you in new directions —it makes you think."
Ding said his first few weeks at the College were a hard period of adjustment, and that it can sometimes be difficult to pay attention during a long lecture in a foreign language.
Still, Ding said he "would encourage Chinese students to apply" to Bowdoin.
Chen took two first-year seminars during his first year in order to strengthen his language skills, and said the question to ask when considering a liberal arts education is "do you enjoy challenges?"
Chen has certainly challenged himself during his time at Bowdoin, taking five classes per semester for the majority of his undergraduate career. He is a Sarah and James Bowdoin scholar, and is currently working toward the completion of a double major in psychology and economics.
Next year, he hopes to work with the China Education Initiative in partnership with Princeton University, which aims to teach English to rural students.
"I think it would be meaningful to have a broader impact on China, to let people know that the liberal arts system exists and is so supportive," Chen said.