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Senior Valery Lavigne reflects on her study in China at a Washington, D.C. event marking the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao

EWING, NJ … Valery Lavigne, a senior at The College of New Jersey, participated in a panel discussion today in Washington, D.C. 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,” Obama 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.

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.

The College of New Jersey was recently chosen by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to participate in the year-long International Academic Partnerships Program, funded by the U.S. 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.

Since he was elected, President Barack Obama has urged young Americans to engage with China. In 2009, he  announced the “100,000 Strong” initiative, a national effort designed to significantly increase the number and diversity of American students studying in the country to prepare the next generation of China experts to manage the political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries. The initiative relies on private-sector philanthropic support for existing U.S.-China educational exchange programs that are seeking to expand, and complements existing study abroad and language study programs run by government agencies.

The event at Howard University was sponsored by the U.S.  Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, served as moderator.

For additional information on the panel event or the College’s Center for Global Engagement, please contact Jon Stauff  at 609-771-2596 or