Four Fairfield University students awarded Freeman-ASIA scholarships for study in China


Four Fairfield University students have been awarded $5,000 scholarships to help defray costs of a semester-long study in Beijing, China and Tokyo, Japan. Funded by the Freeman Foundation, the Freeman Awards for Study in Asia, are administered by the nonprofit Institute of International Education.

Three of the scholarship winners, along with a fifth student who did not apply for the scholarship, will be participating in The Beijing Center, a Jesuit consortial program for study in China. Those students will spend the Spring 2003 semester at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The fourth scholarship recipient will study at Sophia University, a Jesuit institution that is one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.

Mary Claire FinnenJunior Mary Claire Finnen, of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., was attracted to the program and the opportunity to study in Asia.

"I really liked the intensive language component," said Finnen, who has never taken Chinese. Finnen also appreciated the opportunity to take trips throughout the semester to other parts of China. Asian destinations are less popular when students consider places to study abroad, Finnen said.

"A lot of people go to Europe," said Finnen, an International Studies major.

She's right. According to a recent survey by the Institute of International Education, more than 60 percent of U.S. students studying abroad headed to Europe, while about 5 percent selected East or Southeast Asia. Indeed, while about 5,000 Americans are studying in East and Southeast Asia, more than 250,000 students from that area are studying in the United States.

"The goal of the Freeman-Asia Program is to increase the number of U.S. undergraduates who study in East and Southeast Asia. The Jesuit Beijing program gives undergraduates, even undergraduates with no Chinese language background, an opportunity to experience this important world culture," said Susan M. Fitzgerald, director of Study Abroad Programs at Fairfield University. "We are delighted Fairfield University has four Freeman Scholars! These students will return to campus with enviable knowledge about a part of the world few Americans understand."

Fairfield's four recipients are among 120 students nationwide who received grants for the spring, according to IIE. The agency received 365 applications for the grants, which are awarded based on financial need as well as academics.

Michael Mercer"Not too many Americans can speak East Asian languages," said Michael Mercer, a Fairfield junior and one of those few who can. Mercer has already taken three semesters of Mandarin Chinese and hopes the immersion in Beijing will improve his speaking abilities.

"We'll have a need for Chinese," said Mercer, of Westerly, R.I. Mercer, who has a double major in International Studies and French, is already fluent in the latter.

Kristie Givens, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., has always been interested in Asian culture. She is taking advantage of the opportunity to visit that area of the world while she is still in school.

Givens wants to attend law school when she graduates and possibly work on political asylum cases. She hopes her experiences in Beijing will enhance her ability to do that work.

"I think it's so fascinating because it's so different from our culture," said Givens, a junior English major.

Jennilee Lindo, a junior with majors in Asian Studies and politics, will spend a semester in Tokyo, Japan.

Upon their return to Fairfield University, the students will visit various International Studies and Asian Studies classes to share their experiences with other students, said Katherine Kidd, Ph.D., director of the International Studies program at Fairfield.

"These students will demystify Asia as a study abroad location," Dr. Kidd said. "We hope it will encourage more students to consider minoring in Asian studies and studying for a semester or year in Asia."

Alan Katz, Ph.D., director of the Asian Studies Program at Fairfield, agreed.

"This is a wonderful sign that we have a number of strong students wanting to study in Asia next semester and that their studies have been supported by the Freeman Foundation," Dr. Katz said. "Asia, after all, contains some of the largest, most important nations in the world and is an area of great dynamism and diversity."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 15, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 145