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Asian Studies | Student Activities & Alumni

Summer Dispatches from China

Zoe Berling study in China

Hello fellow adventurer,

My name is Zoe Berling, and in the summer of 2015, I'll have finished my Junior year at American University. I am a double major in Public Communication and Asian Studies, and I will graduate with a minor in Chinese as well. If you are interested in studying abroad in China, you should absolutely do it. My experiences through American University's Beijing Immersion and non-Immersion study abroad programs were absolutely amazing.

Before I can tell you about my experiences abroad, I want to share a little bit about myself. I was adopted from China when I was four months old and grew up in Evergreen, Colorado. Before college, I dabbled in French and Spanish, but I didn't give China much thought. When I was choosing where to attend university, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but didn't know where I wanted to go.

Even once I started my freshmen year at American University I hadn't decided. In fact, my freshmen year, I took Japanese instead of Chinese. Maybe it was curiosity about my original culture, or maybe it was a sense of study to understand my heritage, but when I signed up for classes my sophomore year, I choose to take Chinese instead of continuing to learn Japanese.

I had the best elementary Chinese professors: Shi Lasoshi and Xu Laoshi. One thing led to another and spring semester of 2015, I applied to the summer language immersion program and the fall normal semester at Peking University. Anyone who has attended the CSI language program at Peking University can attest to the awesome professors, the beautiful campus, and the stress of the Chinese classes. (Don't let that scare you - you improve so quickly, it works out!).

However, I want to say a few words about my out-of-the-classroom experience. During the summer, the immersion program took up most of my time. Having a Chinese quiz every morning really keeps you focused on your studies. Aside from that, I enjoyed hanging out with my new friends in the program on weekends, but, as expected, it has its own limitations and can become quite boring.

I decided to take a risk and baidu-ed (Chinese google) 'Beijing Ultimate Frisbee." I found a team that had pick-up games at Beijing Normal University. At first, I was really scared that they would only speak Chinese, and I only had one year of Chinese and a few weeks of immersion under my belt. It turned out, however, that the team was run by a couple of expatriates from the East Coast who moved to China and wanted to play Ultimate in Beijing. This is how I found my Beijing Crew.

I joined the team, and found that they compete with teams from other cities in China and neighboring countries like South Korea and Japan. Through meeting the Beijing Frisbee team, I got to go to tournaments in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tianjing.

Beijing Frisbee Team Team at Hong Kong tournament

The first picture (on left) is a photograph of our team in Taiwan, and the second (on right) is a picture of me (in white) playing at a tournament in Hong Kong.

For anyone studying abroad in Chinese (or elsewhere), I have only one piece of advice: Don't get too caught up in the planning stage of your adventure. Planning only gets you so far - but if you're not flexible, you might miss out on a really cool opportunity.

Through the connections I made with the Beijing Frisbee team, I was able to get a summer job working in Beijing. It'll all come together, one way or another.

Student Blog: Katherine Hurley on Peer Advising and Asian Studies

Katherine Hurley

In 2013, as a high school senior searching for colleges, I had a plan: find a university that offered a well-respected Asian Studies program; extensive study abroad options within the program; and many opportunities for internships and hands-on learning. I had already decided that my scholarly interests involved studying philosophy and religion, and how they influence modern day institutions such as government, education, and business in East Asia. I happily found my home at American University. However, as a freshman I noticed that not all of my classmates were set on their academic path or had found their niche. This concerned me because although it is very exciting to have a wealth of opportunities to explore, selecting a major can be overwhelming to a new student. 

This year, as a sophomore, I began my work with the College of Arts and Sciences Peer Advising Program as the Asian Studies Peer Affiliate. I work with "undecided" students, answering questions and offering advice regarding whether or not the Asian Studies major might be a good fit for them. I often tell students that the Asian Studies program's main strength is its close-knit, interactive community. We are able to meet for dinner as a department, and we know our professors outside of the classroom. This allows us to discuss not only academic interests but also future course ideas and how we would like to see the program grow. Due to the personal connections I have developed with my program head, Professor Jin Park, as well as with my other professors, I am able to tailor my education to my specific interests and needs. The department is very flexible while still providing the knowledge and skills necessary to enter a related field of employment. 

I also advise students how the Asian Studies major can translate into a career, and what resources (such as internships and scholarships) are available to students in this area of study. Current AU students interested in the Asian Studies program can contact me through the CAS Peer Advising Program by asking their academic counselor to refer them. Prospective students, or anyone curious about the Asian Studies program, can contact me personally outside of the Peer Advising Program at my email I would love to discuss my experience with the program and answer any questions! 

Katherine Hurley is a Sophomore majoring in Asian Studies and minoring in International Business and Education Studies. She is also the Asian Studies Peer Affiliate and a winner of the 2014 First Annual Asian Studies Essay Contest.

First Student to Graduate from the Asian Studies Program: Sean Dugdale

Sean Dugdale

I came to AU in the fall of 2010 as an SIS major in the U.S. Foreign Policy program. I quickly realized that if our policymakers do not understand foreign countries, chances of effective cooperation in any part of the world would be slim.I was driven to the Asian Studies program to gain this knowledge. This intimate and well-run program was the perfect opportunity to find what had been missing in my studies: culture. Spending a year in Beijing on the Boren Scholarship opened my eyes to the importance of culture in international relations. From Kennan's "Long Telegram" to Vogel's Japan as No. 1 to contemporary bestsellers preaching the rise of China, many claim that culture defines a country's attitudes and shapes its perceptions of the world. But few people "get it right," few people understand. And fewer still can speak the language. So I chose to focus on Chinese language and East Asia within the program.

From the Boren Scholarship, I owe a great debt to my nation for providing opportunities to study abroad. I hope to repay that debt through work on East Asian climate, energy, and food security analysis for the federal government.

Sean Dugdale is is the first student to graduate from the Asian Studies Program in 2014. Sean is majoring in International Studies at the School of International Service (SIS) with a dual degree in Chinese and East Asian Studies.

First Asian Studies Program Gathering
Thursday, April 24

ASP gathering

6:30-7:30 PM, MGC 5 (Not MGC Tavern)

It is with great pleasure that we announce the first official gathering of Asian Studies students, faculty and staff members to celebrate the successful first year of the Asian Studies Program at American University. Aside from lively exchange, we look forward to announce the winners of our fist Asian Studies contest.

We look forward to meeting all of you along with your friends, fellow students, family members and people interested in Asia!

Light dinner will be served.

Student Participation in Conferences Funded by the Asian Studies Program

Robert Devico

ECAASU Conference, Feb 21-23, 2014

From February 21st to the 23rd, I attended the annual ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union) Conference. ECAASU hosts this conference at different locations along the east coast every year for the AAPI (Asian-American Pacific Islander) community and their allies. This year, it was held at George Washington University, which gave the 1,000+ conference attendants the opportunity to get involved and network with local businesses and advocacy groups and see how they work in the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

Delegates at the conference were also able to attend 3 panels held by ECAASU's student leaders. The first one I attended, "We're Here! We're Queer! What Now?" discussed how the AAPI LGBTQ community can continue to establish itself as an advocacy group, and discussed the common identity conflicts within the AAPI LGBTQ community. The second panel I attended, "Self Identity: Who are you, and why are you who you are?" was a workshop on reconciling our identities in which the students involved got to share their unique backgrounds. The final panel I attended, "Stereotypes in Media: Redefining Asian Media," discussed how the mainstream media presents Asian-Americans as certain stereotypes, while communities like Youtube allow for a different representation. All of the panels were very helpful to my research, as I'm focusing on how the media in South Korea portrays and shapes LGBTQ identity. It was invaluable being able to network with the advocacy groups at the conference, and I also learned about my own identity from attending ECAASU's Conference. 

Robert DeVico is a Sophomore majoring in Asian Studies and minoring in School of International Service. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Korea-America Student Conference, and is a Contractor at Washington CORE.


Asian Studies Undergrad Conference Grant

You are in good academic standing and would like to participate in one particular conference but cannot afford it at this moment? Find out more about Asia Studies funded undergrad conference grants and general scholarship opportunities.