Michelle Obama Encourages Students to Study in China

Jan 19, 2011 7:24pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Danielle Hopkins blogs: First Lady Michelle Obama urged students to visit China at the "100,000 Strong" China Study Abroad forum at  Howard University today. President Barack Obama announced the "100,000 Strong" Initiative during his 2009 visit to China. The program aims to increase and diversify the number of American students studying in China by making study abroad more affordable. The President met with Chinese leader Hu Jintao earlier today to kick off a series of events leading up to tonight's A-list state dinner with the Chinese president. According to Mrs. Obama, his talk with Jintao wasn't simply about "relationships between our governments and our presidents" but also "about
relationships between our people, between our business leaders and our scientists, our educators, and particularly between our young people." During the event at Howard, Mrs. Obama spoke about the importance of studying abroad, something says she never did while in college. "Studying in countries like China is about so much more than just improving your own prospects in the global market. The fact is with every friendship you make and every bond of trust you establish you are shaping an image of America projected to the rest of the world," she said. Four students who had studied in China participated in a panel moderated by Ann Stock, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and shared their experiences. David Marzban, a senior International Business and Asian Studies major from Pepperdine University recalled a time when he formed a cross-cultural bond with a complete stranger at a restaurant near his residence hall at Fudan University in Shanghai. He noticed one of the young chefs typing on a laptop and signaling him to come over. "He presses the play button on the media player that he has and he starts singing 'California Dreaming' to me and wants me to sing along with him," Marzban said. "At this time I knew a great friendship had started during my first two weeks in China." Nicole Baden a senior communications major at Howard University who studies Chinese, Arabic and Spanish recalled how her time in China really helped her master the language. "You have to experience the culture while learning the language to really master it in order to understand why things are how they are compared to your own culture," Baden said. Mrs. Obama encouraged students to set aside notions that studying abroad is for "rich kids only" or for those that attend "certain schools." In addition, the first lady announced that the Chinese government is giving 10,000 "Bridge Scholarships" to cover costs for American students and teachers studying in China. Students from several schools attended the forum, such as 12-year-old Sarah Davis from Tyee Middle School in Bellevue, Wash. She studied in China last summer and said she was very excited to hear Michelle Obama talk about the country. Sarah, who was accompanied by a teacher, was the only student from her school selected to attend the event. “I love Chinese, out of all the languages I’ve learned, Chinese is the most difficult and interesting,” she said.

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