After United States recognition of the People’s Republic of China in December 1978 formal relations between the two nations began, and Vassar was invited to send some students to the Peking Language Institute for the coming year.  Associate Professor of Chinese Yin-lien Chin, meeting in New York City with visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Education Li-Qi, described the college’s Chinese program and discussed with him a planned exchange of students between the two countries. This first exchange involved 65 American students graduate students. In gratitude for her help with lowering the costs of the exchange program, the vice minister invited her to send some students to the Peking institute.

The Vassar students, Teresa Colwell ’79, Linda Harris ’79, Leda Petrov ’79 and Lynn Sampsell ‘79 were the only non-graduate students invited and no Chinese students exchanged with them. “Five years ago,” Mrs. Chin said, “I wouldn’t have dared to think of sending our students to China…. During the Cultural Revolution there was hatred of Americans. It’s different now, they want to be friendly with Americans.”

Little was known about curricula, texts or academic documentation in the PRC, and even the dialect used in modern Chinese higher education was uncertain.  The college assured the students that participation would not endanger their certification for graduation, and most of their costs were met by funding from the Maguire endowment, given by Helen Maguire Muller ‘45/44, in honor of her father.