“A lot of students just come to college and want to get done with it,” says senior Song Vang. “They don’t realize the opportunity to study abroad exists and the benefits study abroad can bring.”
Vang, a Linguistics and Deaf Education major, serves as University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) ambassador on campus. USAC is a consortium of study abroad programs to which Fresno State belongs. Song studied at the USAC program in Chengdu, China, for over two months last summer and now, as USAC ambassador, helps promote study abroad and its benefits to her fellow students.
Song had many reasons for wanting to study abroad, but the primary one related to her major. Some deaf students learn English as a second language and Song wanted immersion in a culture and language with which she was not familiar in order to relate better to her students’ experiences. She chose Chengdu, in southwestern China, because of its diverse population. Many minority groups live in Chengdu and surrounding Sichuan Province. Song remembers very fondly being able to spend time with a Tibetan family in the nearby town of Kanding.
It took some time and lots of reassurance for Song to convince her parents to get on board with her plans to study in China. “This is my dream. I really want to do this,” she recalls telling them.
It helped that USAC has a very strong support system in place for students and their parents. USAC has parent hotlines that families can use to contact their children – a major selling point for Song’s mother. USAC also provides detailed information on coursework, living arrangement and travel plans, including visas and other matters with which many students have little experience.
Song also landed a Gilman Scholarship and a Freeman Asia Scholarship. With additional support from our own campus, she was able to study in China with very little out-of-pocket cost.
Now, as USAC Ambassador, she is visiting University 1 classrooms, as well as the Renaissance Scholars, EOP and CAMP programs to talk about study abroad and the financial aid available to support it. “I want to support my campus,” she says, “and help other students go abroad.”
By Hank Declore (Department of Anthropology)