University offers love, happiness courses

Updated: Jan 19, 2024 By Xu Zhesheng China Daily Print
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In recent years, Tianjin University has introduced "love and happiness" as a discipline on campus, offering courses on the subjects and incorporating them into the general elective curriculum.

The courses have become some of the most sought-after classes on campus, gaining popularity among students who long to find love and experience happiness amid their academic pursuits.

A doctoral student who boasts outstanding research achievements expressed his feelings to China Youth Daily, stating that love is much more challenging than research.

"Research can be achieved through effort, but not love," said the student, who declined to give his name.

After attending the courses, students are not expected to immediately find a partner, nor will they necessarily experience an overwhelming sense of happiness. However, they may discover subtle positive changes within themselves, some say.

Undergraduate student Zhong Hongkun said that he used to think pursuing happiness was like chasing an elusive shooting star. However, he now realizes that happiness comes from within.

This realization has given him the courage to face difficulties and setbacks on his life journey.

Wang Xiaoling, who teaches the love course at Tianjin University's mental health education center, is frequently asked by students, "Can taking the love course help me find a partner?" She said she always smiles in response and says that it is not a "course on finding a partner", nor does it teach dating skills.

With over 10 years of experience in mental health education, Wang has discovered that relationship issues and emotional confusion are common concerns among students seeking psychological counseling.

According to the 2022 College Students' Mental Health Status Survey Report jointly published by the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Social Sciences Academic Press last year, college students in romantic relationships had the lowest scores in "depression" and "boredom". Meanwhile, those who wanted to "find a partner" were more prone to anxiety.

The love course at Tianjin University teaches students how to better communicate and interact with others, how to establish healthy views on love, marriage and family, and how to enhance their capacity for love, including self-love, love for their families and love for their country. "Whether or not they find a partner is not the standard for assessing their success in the course," Wang said.

She said she hoped students can develop the ability to love and gain more happiness through what they learn in the classroom.

Practice is a vital part of the love and happiness courses.

During a class on "positive emotions" that is part of the happiness course taught by Zhao Jianbo, deputy director of the School of Earth System Science at Tianjin University, students shared milk tea and desserts, sang with the teacher and exchanged messages in their online group chat whenever they had ideas.

In a joyful and relaxed atmosphere, Zhao discussed psychological experiments and taught scientific methods for emotional regulation. "Happiness doesn't have a formula, but it can be experienced," Zhao said. "Although the classroom interactions may seem fun, each part actually combines theoretical research results and focuses on providing students with practical methods that are simple and effective."

Wu Fengwei, a teacher specializing in quality development at Tianjin University's mental health education center, held one of his recent happiness classes at an outdoor training ground. During the class, he divided students into groups and engaged them in games or tasks.

"Students in the class come from different grades and faculties, and they are relatively unfamiliar with each other. Through outdoor experiences, previously unfamiliar students establish contact and emotional connections, which itself is a relaxing and happy experience," Wu said.

Meanwhile, in Wang's love class, she gave communication assignments to her students, including having them interview their parents, during which their parents are invited to discuss matters such as the most touching moments of their lives or the qualities they admire or cannot accept in each other. "Many students are pleasantly surprised to find that such conversations can be very rewarding to both themselves and their parents. Many students even invite their parents to attend the class with them online and listen in," Wang said.

The love course also employs various experiential teaching methods, including simulated confessions to encourage students to be more courageous, as well as simulated arguments to help them learn to consider others' perspectives and express themselves reasonably. Additionally, volunteer activities and social events have been organized to enhance students' interpersonal skills.

Tianjin University is among the first universities in China to offer love and happiness courses. Other universities, including Wuhan University in Hubei province and Xiamen University in Fujian province, also have similar courses.


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