30 April 2019


Let’s more about a few of our student ambassadors!


Melinda Zou, 18

American Councils, NSLI-Y


Melinda is a high school student who is currently studying abroad for the first time in Beijing through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLIY). She will attend the Beijing No. 80 school in Wangjing for a total of nine months, or one academic year, and will return to her hometown in the US for her senior year in May.


“Growing up I used to be ashamed of my Chinese American identity,” Melinda writes, “But seeing older American Born Chinese peers who couldn’t speak Chinese made me appreciate the opportunities available to me and motivated me to pursue Mandarin to the best of my abilities.”


This appreciation inspired Melinda to apply for the NSLIY program in Beijing and to make the best possible use of the experience to connect with her Chinese heritage, striving not to let a moment of her time go to waste.


“I believe that Mandarin knowledge, as well as knowledge of Chinese culture and people-to-people relations is essential to an American citizen, and knowledge of all of the above ties into the growth of America.”


Melinda envisions herself pursuing higher education in international relations, with emphasis on East Asia, or economics. Moreover, the experience of studying in a Chinese high school has helped her to realize the range of possibilities available to her in other fields of study and work. She says, “I am now more interested in STEM related subjects as a result, and am open to a variety of future options rather than being set in one subject.” Indeed, as a result of her immersive study abroad experience, she can see herself using her Mandarin skills in whichever career paths she pursues.


“While I am not completely sure of what I want to pursue long term, I hope that whatever job I have lets me contribute to the world in a positive manner.”


Zachary Fechter, 22

The Beijing Center


Zach Fechter is a recent graduate of Loyola University, Maryland where he earned his B.A. degree in Global Studies, an interdisciplinary program that combines political science, economics, history, and sociology.


Zach studied in Beijing for the first time last year. As he learned more about China’s growing prominence in global affairs, Zach felt the inspiration to deepen his understanding of the country by taking advantage of study abroad opportunities available to him through his university. He applied to study in China through the Beijing Center. This experience reinforced his intuition that efforts to understand China would result in viable long-term skills.


“China’s international economic and political roles are growing, making knowledge of Mandarin commercially valuable”.


Additionally, Zach’s desire to gain broader access to the world’s cultures played a role in his decision to learn Chinese and to study in China. “I speak English and Spanish, so I wanted language skills outside of the western hemisphere.”


Studying China and learning Mandarin has also impacted his plans for the future. Zach writes, “I want to continue to learn Mandarin so that I may analyze Chinese political activism in graduate school, and/or to work in Chinese law. Studying Mandarin in China cemented my desire to comprehend domestic political and legal argumentation.”


Zach hopes to become a researcher and professor on political and legal communication, or to become an international lawyer with a focus on China.


Sofia Pesantez, 17

China Institute


Sofia went to Beijing for the first time last summer through the China Institute’s “China Summer Study” program. After four years of studying Mandarin in school, Sofia was finally able to spend a month traveling through Beijing learning more about Chinese history and culture, all while putting her languages skills to the test.


She says, “The thing that motivated me the most to study Mandarin is the fact that it opens me up to a completely different part of the world that is so unique and interesting. I love the opportunities that are open to me now that I am learning Mandarin and that is the reason why I first started studying Mandarin.”


Studying in China has also influenced her future aspirations. She says, “I definitely want to be more involved with China as a whole, including possibly going to college there, and maybe interning or working in China.”

Ultimately, Sofia wants to pursue a career as a surgeon, leveraging proficiency in multiple languages to better serve her patients.


“I want to be able to communicate with people who speak all different kinds of languages, and to limit the language barriers between myself and people of different cultures and backgrounds.”