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Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Lady Encourages Studying Abroad

Wednesday at Howard University First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the nation's future leaders about the benefits of studying abroad, especially in China.

On the heels of Chinese president Hu Jintao visiting Washington, Mrs. Obama told students at Howard's Cramton Auditorium, "The fact is, with every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world.  That is so important.  So when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger."

The event was highlighted by a panel of students who have experienced Chinese culture and language. 

One former Howard alumni called the initiative "exciting".  As a Howard University graduate that studied in Beijing during the spring of 2005, she said writes, "I know just how spectacular the RJB center is. Best experience of my entire life."

Mrs. Obama was joined at Howard by Madame Chen Naiqing, the wife of China’s ambassador to the U.S., Zhang Yesui, and Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.  

During President Obama's visit to China in 2009 the president introduced the 100,000 Strong Initiative, citing the strategic importance of the U.S.- China relationship.
   
“Students who study abroad learn firsthand how critical international exchange programs are to developing the next generation of global citizens”, “said Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock.

It is reported that ten times more Chinese students come to the United States for educational programs than Americans who study in China, and 600 times more Chinese study the English language than Americans study Mandarin, hardly matching the efforts of  The State Department that sends more Americans to study abroad in China than to any other country.

"And as a consequence, studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience.  It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy.  Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom.  It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders -- with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own", added Mrs. Obama.

100,000 Strong:  New Efforts

The First Lady also highlighted several new efforts launched under the 100,000 Strong Initiative, including:

·         The D.C. Center for Global Education and Leadership (CGEL) will create up to 1,000 study abroad opportunities over the next four years in support of the President’s Initiative for students, teachers, and education policymakers from Washington, D.C. public and public charter schools, an underserved community.
·         Although community colleges enroll more than half of the undergraduates in the United State, community college students represent only three percent of those who study abroad.  To address this discrepancy, the Center for Global Advancement for Community Colleges (CGACC) is establishing an inter-semester China program in collaboration with the West Los Angeles Community College. The program would offer month-long, study-abroad opportunities tailored to community college students. Students from West Los Angeles College, Northern Virginia Community Colleges, Community College of Spokane, Richland Community College, Miami Dade College, and Bronx Community College will be invited to participate in the pilot project, which will later be expanded nationwide.

·         In support of the Initiative, last week Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a letter to leading educational umbrella groups encouraging their member organizations to increase the number of their students who study abroad in China. To date, 324 institutions have answered in support of her invitation and have pledged to double their numbers over the next four years. Included in these supporters are the 47 public Historically Black College and University members of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund; the 39 private HBCU members of the United Negro College Fund; and the 199 U.S.-based Hispanic-serving members of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. This commitment will help address the significant underrepresentation of minority students in study abroad overall and in China in particular. 

·         A Federal Advisory Committee composed of celebrated China experts and private-sector leaders is being created to provide guidance and support to the Initiative.

Other new efforts include:

·         Zinch, a private U.S. information management company with operations in China, will create a free online database for American students to find study abroad opportunities in China.

·         The Ford Foundation, a U.S. non-profit with a long-history in China, is providing seed money to the non-profit organization Golden Bridges for the creation of a robust alumni network to bring together students who have traveled to China as part of the 100,000 Strong cohort and previously. 

·         GreenPoint Group and the Friends of Charitable Education Trust have offered scholarships to students from rural Kansas to participate in the Experiment in International Living’s China program. 

·         Van Eyck Global has contributed $100,000 in support of the Initiative to the U.S.-China Education Trust.  USCET has distributed this money among four forward-looking colleges to provide travel grants for their students to go to China: University of Arkansas, Boston University, North Alabama University, and San Francisco State University.  
  
·         The Chinese government has offered 10,000 scholarships for Americans studying in China.  These “bridge” scholarships will cover all in-country costs and target high school and college students and teachers. 

·         In addition, the State Department is working with a large number of schools and study abroad programs to help them identify new sources of funding so that they can scale up their excellent China study programs. 

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