8 February 2017


Take a look at what just a few of our 2017-2018 class of Student Ambassadors have been up to this month:


Quynh-May Nguyen, 17


Quynh-May Nguyen is a senior at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago, Illinois, where she was born and raised. She joined the US-China Strong Student Ambassador Program as a nominee from the Chicago Public School Confucius Institute. While Quynh-May did begin studying Chinese in kindergarten, she was unable to maintain consistency in her study of Chinese until junior year of high school. It was then that she rediscovered her enthusiasm for the language, and was given the opportunity to study abroad in China.


Through a scholarship made possible by Wanxiang America Cooperation called the Chicago Public Schools Chinese Summer Language, Culture and Technology Initiative (CSLCTI), Quynh-May spent a month studying in China. She spent one week traveling to Beijing and Shanghai, followed by three weeks of intensive Chinese study for eight hours a day in Hangzhou. “It was intense, but fun,” Quynh-May recalls. “There was a local coffee shop that sold milk tea for less than a dollar, so we would sit there and study all day as people practiced taiqi in the background.”


Upon her return from China, Quynh-May gave a presentation in Chinese at her local Chicago Confucius Institute. She described her time with twenty-three other Chicago high school students and twelve Chinese students studying together, traveling to different historical sites, and eating Chinese food everyday. Quynh-May now has intermediate proficiency in Chinese due to her time abroad combined with four semesters of Chinese language learning experience.


Quynh-May plans to study biochemistry next year in college, but studying Chinese has influenced the trajectory of her career aspirations. Her time in China showed her the importance of interacting with locals in their language. “Now I know I want to work internationally, preferably in Mandarin,” Quynh-May says.


“I want to work in the Peace Corps or Doctors without Borders to work in countries that need better access to health care. Learning Mandarin will help me with my long-term career goals.”









Liam Hagan, 20


Liam Hagan is a student at the University of Iowa, which he also represents as a US-China Strong Student Ambassador. He double majors in Electrical Engineering and Chinese. The intrigue and challenge of Chinese motivates him to continue studying the language. “I love being a part of the Chinese program at the University of Iowa,” Liam says. “I believe it will open many doors for me in my career path.” One of those doors presented itself for Liam through the university’s program in Tianjin, an eight-week-long study abroad program at Tianjin University of Technology (TUT).


For his Student Ambassador project this term, Liam and his friends gave a group presentation at the 2017 Mid-Autumn Festival Program hosted by the Chinese Language Department and Confucius Institute at the University of Iowa. In a presentation entitled “Chinese Life,” Liam and his classmates shared their experiences while abroad in China. They described all the scenic and historical sites they visited in Beijing and Tianjin, the culture and art they observed in the expansive museums, and the rigorous academic work everyday at TUT. “It was a life changing experience, and I can’t wait to go back.”


After nearly two years of studying Chinese, Liam says it has significantly influenced his future plans. He hopes to work in China for some time after graduation, an aspiration that was reinforced during his time abroad in Tianjin. He believes experience living and working in China will further his language abilities and get him closer to his long-term career goals. Liam hopes to eventually become an electrical or computer engineer and wants to work on teams that use Mandarin and English.


“After studying abroad in Tianjin for two months, I am positive that I made the right choice when I decided to study Chinese.”












Naomi Aguilar, 16


Naomi Aguilar is a student at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida. Interested in Asian cultures and languages from an early age, Naomi jumped at the opportunity to begin studying Mandarin Chinese in the fifth grade. She continued to study Chinese until ninth grade, at which point she was unable to continue due to an absence of Chinese instruction at her current school. Determined to continue her studies, however, Naomi pursued self-study through Chinese movies and soap operas.


She was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in Nanjing for six weeks through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship managed by American Councils. Naomi wrote a blog post to share the experience of her time abroad for this term’s Student Ambassador project. “This program helped me develop independence and a deep sense of gratitude for what I have at home in America,” Naomi says.


Studying Chinese, especially in China, opened Naomi’s eyes to the world outside the United States, allowing her to think in a global context. “I have realized that many situations have more than one story, many perspectives and lenses through which to look.” Her passion for Chinese led directly to the development of her interest in foreign policy, and she hopes to one day work in a career that combines medicine, public health, and foreign policy.


“Studying in China for six weeks allowed me to get rid of previous romanticization of Asia, and also created a deeper sense of my understanding of Chinese culture.”