Imagine being grilled by a panel of prominent educators in a foreign language.

Now suppose that you’ve only been learning their language for two semesters, or that you’re trying to remember vocabulary and grammar while coping with a collapsed lung.

This is the trial by fire Suffolk students Audra White and Carl Anderson faced during interviews for the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program – a hurdle they both overcame to earn a fully-funded eight month journey through China. The experience will include: 

  • Mandarin and Chinese culture studies at Shaanxi Normal University
  • An Internship in the Xi’an High Tech Development Zone
  • A home-stay with Chinese host families to celebrate the Chinese New Year
  • Field-trips while studying in Shaanxi Province
  • A tour of Beijing

The program will help White and Anderson hone their Chinese language skills and develop a deep understanding of Chinese society, including business culture.

Carl Anderson

Interest in China was sparked by cuisine

As an accounting major, Carl Anderson is aware of the critical part China plays in the global marketplace. He’s excited about the opportunity to work with a Chinese corporation during his upcoming trip and knows that experience will give him an edge on the job market when he graduates next year. But he admits his interest in Chinese culture originally had nothing to do with business.

When Anderson moved from Canada to Brookline, MA, during high school he noticed something special about the large contingent of Chinese students there:

“They had the best food,” he recalls with a laugh. “I was intrigued enough by the cuisine to try a class, and have been a student of Chinese language and culture ever since.”

His interest led him to Professor Christopher Dakin’s Chinese courses at Suffolk, and also to a 6-week study abroad trip to Shanghai last summer. In China, Anderson learned invaluable lessons about everyday communication in unexpected places like basketball courts and taxis. He was struck by how polite, helpful and welcoming he found Chinese society. After such an eye-opening experience he longed to return.

Unfortunately, when his chance came to interview for the Fulbright-Hays Program, Anderson was in the hospital recovering from a collapsed lung and preparing for finals. He credits Professor Dakin and Suffolk’s language tutoring staff for helping him practice for the rigorous interview in Chinese.

“When the day came, I must have looked calm but I wanted jump out of my own skin!” says Anderson. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to not only learn more about Chinese culture, but also about myself as an individual.”

And, of course, to sample more delicious Chinese dishes. Follow Anderson's culinary and cultural forays on his blog, "What am I about to eat?"

Photo of Audra WhiteAudra White

Army Vet -- and veteran traveler -- savors new life experiences

Audra White, a senior double-majoring in Politics and Philosophy while minoring in Asian Studies, also believes sharing food helps build cultural understanding. When she served in Iraq from 2009-2010 as a soldier in the US Army she bonded with soldiers from around the world in the mess hall.

“Whether it was griping about the food, or enjoying delicacies like the excellent Turkish coffee, eating brought us together,” says White. “I hope to have similar experiences in China, especially during my stay with a host family.”

White’s path to China – and to Suffolk – had many twists and turns. A self-described “recovering perfectionist,” she thrives on challenges, detouring from the traditional path of an undergraduate student with stints in non-profit work and the military. Following her tour in Iraq, White chose Suffolk for its large international student population and wide range of academic options.

“I wanted to study somewhere that reflected the diversity of people and opinions I’ve enjoyed throughout my life,” explains White. “My involvement in the Asian Studies Program was a natural next step given my desire to learn as much about other cultures as possible.”

Although White had only taken two Chinese courses, Professor Dakin encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright-Hays program.

“Audra is an incredible student who is outgoing and extremely dedicated to learning about other cultures,” says Dakin. “I knew that if the panel looked past her relative inexperience in Chinese language they’d realize how great an asset she would be to the program.”

Is White concerned about adapting to full Chinese immersion after only two semesters of preparation?

“The interview was one of the scariest moments of my life,” White admits. “I have accomplished a lot in my life, but this achievement is what I’m most proud of. I can’t wait to jump in with both feet!”