TCNJ senior reflects on her study in China at a Washington, DC event marking the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao

Valery Lavigne (left) participated in a panel discussion studying in China. Seated next to her is panel moderator Ann Stock, assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs, and David Marzban from Pepperdine University. Photo above and below (c) Justin D. Knight/Howard University.

In January, senior Valery Lavigne participated in a panel discussion in Washington, DC, on the academic, cultural, and career benefits of studying in China. The event was part of a series of activities organized by the Obama administration around the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Held at Howard University, the panel discussion followed a speech there by First Lady Michelle Obama, who talked to an audience of high school and college students about the importance of studying abroad, the value of getting to know foreign cultures and people firsthand, and the pivotal role these exchanges play in forging cooperation among countries as they work together to solve global problems.

“When you study abroad, you’re helping to make America stronger,” the First Lady said.

Lavigne, who is majoring in cultural anthropology, spent a semester her sophomore year in Beijing at Peking University’s School of Chinese as a Second Language. Her coursework included classes in spoken Chinese, readings in Chinese, pronunciation, and the writing of Chinese characters. She began studying Mandarin in an online course in high school.

The panel discussion followed a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama.

A powerful lesson from her time abroad, she told the audience, was the realization that “my career doesn’t have to be limited to one country, one region, or even one continent.” She is applying to work for the Peace Corps following graduation.

Lavigne, one of four panel members, also encouraged her fellow students not to be daunted by financial hurdles. She won a federal Gilman International Scholarship to support her study abroad, among other awards, and urged them to look for similar opportunities.

TCNJ was recently chosen by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to participate in the yearlong International Academic Partnerships Program, funded by the US Department of Education, to help the College establish partnerships with academic institutions in China. Over the course of this academic year, 10 TCNJ students will spend at least a semester in China. Click here to read more.

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