Lisle, Illinois~Christina Dister believes that everyone everywhere in the world has something important to say. That’s why the Benedictine University student is intent on adding Chinese to her repertoire of foreign languages through the Chinese Government Scholarship Program.
“The language barrier that divides people from communicating prevents us from knowing each other and realizing how much we could learn from one another,” Dister said. “It’s one thing to have been taught a language and culture and have the ability to speak fluently, but it’s an entirely different thing to be immersed in the everyday life of a society that is far different from your own.”
Dister is one of three Benedictine students who were awarded full scholarships – covering tuition, lodging, medical insurance, living allowance and learning materials – to study Chinese language and culture at a prestigious Chinese university for a semester.
Stephanie Moy, a Chicago resident and a May 2012 graduate of Benedictine with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, is studying Chinese through the end of January 2013 at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China. Farah Khan, a sophomore Biology major from Naperville, will leave in March to study Chinese at Shanghai University in Shanghai, China for the spring and summer semesters.
This is the third year in a row Benedictine students have been awarded scholarships to study in China, and demonstrates the University’s commitment to providing diverse and affordable study abroad opportunities for its students, said Marc Davidson, Education Abroad coordinator.
“We are very excited to have done this for three years,” Davidson said. “It has increased the knowledge of study abroad as a whole at Benedictine, made accessing China much easier and helps increase the overall cultural understanding of China among students.”
The Chinese Government Scholarship Program was established by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China in accordance with exchange agreements reached between the Chinese government and other countries, organizations and educational institutions to provide scholarships to international students and scholars.
“Through the great efforts and generosity of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, the dream of studying abroad for these Benedictine students has become a reality,” said Elsie Yuan, executive director of International Programs and Services at Benedictine. On behalf of Benedictine University, I extend our sincere thanks for this generous support.”
Dister, a native of Naperville, is a sophomore International Business major who is spending an entire academic year at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology in Hangzhou, China. Dister, who speaks German, Spanish, French and Japanese, said the study abroad program was the main reason she chose to attend Benedictine, and hopes that the experience will one day help her lead an internationally-recognized business.
“Although most people study abroad in their later years in school, I knew right away that I wanted to study as much as I could in new environments,” Dister said. “From this experience, I believe that I will have a deeper understanding and respect for the way to carry on a business than I would have had if I only studied in the United States.”
Moy said learning a language and visiting China were not her only motives for pursuing the scholarship. She also wanted to reconnect with her Chinese roots.
“The experience is a very personal one because it connects me more to my culture and my grandparents, who immigrated to America from China back in the ‘70s,” she said. “This experience has helped me gain perspective about how much my grandparents sacrificed to come to America.
“The tough experiences I had with the language barrier the first few weeks in China are nothing compared to the language barrier when my grandparents moved to America,” Moy added. “But if they could figure out how to communicate in a foreign land, then I could, too.”
Khan is looking forward to taking advantage of her scholarship, which reduces the cost of the trip to the price of a single plane ticket.
“Now that I have the scholarship, there are a lot of things that I’m looking forward to,” Khan said. “I can’t wait to experience the culture there first-hand. I believe this opportunity will help me in the future because it will give me a sense of awareness. There is a whole world outside of Chicago. Some people don’t know about it and some people don’t care. I don’t ever want to be one of those two types of people.”
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.