Globalization is with us to stay, and as China edges towards being the largest economy in the world, many fear that America and other English speaking countries’ youth are not sufficiently engaged with the world beyond their borders. Enter Ameson Year in China’s Educational Ambassadors. This group of dedicated young university graduates are determined to disrupt the status quo by investing a year of their lives engaging with students at secondary schools across China while also gaining valuable on-the-ground experience with the language and culture.
On August 13th, 2016, the Ameson Foundation held its 4th annual Ameson Year in China (AYC) reception to see off these brave young individuals at the Confucius Institute, US Center in Washington, D.C., which hosted the event for the first time. As the Ameson Foundation and the Confucius Institute share the goals of promoting education and cultural exchange, this was the perfect partnership and location for such an event. Dr. Sun Fengshou, First Secretary at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, was present to express support for such a program and its participants.
At the reception, new Educational Ambassadors (EA) participating in the 2016 AYC program were invited to gain insight into what they should expect, meet Ameson’s Washington, D.C. staff, and get to know other EAs who will form this year’s cohort. During the event, Ameson’s Executive Director, Mr. Stephen Smith, provided information about Ameson’s mission and various programs. During his address, Director Smith emphasized the importance of the EAs' role:
Historically, China has been a major world power. With the reascendency of this country over the past few decades, many say that the U.S.-China bilateral relationship is the most important in the world. New EAs should not underestimate their role in making a positive impact by fostering positive relationships on a person-to-person basis, and should be cognizant of the role that this interaction plays on a global scale.
Ameson’s Deputy Director, Mr. Zhu Xiao Di, welcomed all current and past program participants as well as their guests and then introduced Mr. Gao Qing, Director of the Confucius Institute, US Center, and Mr. Franklin Eneh, Program Coordinator, Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) Washington Office. Both Mr. Gao and Mr. Eneh introduced the programs their institutions run that provide potential career opportunities for AYC program participants. Both Mr. Gao and Mr. Eneh gave informative and engaging speeches that were appreciated by the audience. In a later interview, Mr. Zhu pointed out that studying Chinese with the Confucius Institute, gaining practical experience with AYC, and then studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center could jumpstart the career of aspiring China experts in any number of fields.
After the two special guests’ speeches, Kelly Flaherty, AYC Regional Program Coordinator, mediated a panel composed of four former AYC participants. The program alumni answered questions, shared their experiences, and discussed insights they felt would help this year’s Educational Ambassadors. The panelists, William (Kyle) Strickland, Rachel Cohen, Carly O’Connell, and Walter (Sam) Boone, fielded questions such as: “How is transportation in China?”, “How did you handle the language barrier?”, and “What did you teach while in China?” Among the nearly 60 attendees were reporters from the People’s Daily, World Journal, Sing Tao Daily, and China Press present to cover the event.
The Confucius Institute, US Center generously provided delicious “dim sum” style dishes such as spring rolls, shrimp dumplings, and baozi (pork-filled steamed buns), just to name a few. As the event came to a close, the general feeling among this year’s new participants was that this would be one of the most impactful experiences of their lifetime.