On January 21, 2011, the day President Hu Jintao visited the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at Howard University on the importance of cross-cultural exchange. She and the university were joined by students and educators from Asia Society’s Confucius Classrooms Network.
The First Lady’s speech precluded a panel of students speaking on the importance of study abroad–particularly in China, which she described as “a key component” of this administration’s foreign policy agenda. “Visits like these… aren’t just about relations between our presidents and our governments,” she told the audience. “It’s also about relationships between our people… and particularly between our young people.”
According to the U.S. State Department, ten times more Chinese students come to the U.S. for educational programs than Americans who study in China, and 600 times more Chinese study the English language than Americans study Mandarin.
Michelle Obama announced “a series of new efforts” to reach the goals of Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative–”a national effort designed to increase dramatically the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China.”
“Studying abroad isn’t just part of a well rounded educational experience; it’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy. Getting ahead in today’s workplace isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom. It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders–with people and languages and cultures that are very different from our own.”
Secretary of State Clinton is asking colleges and universities to double the number of students studying in China, with a specific focus on Hispanic-serving institutions and historically black universities, as well as a “mini-mester” for junior college students to have “more affordable opportunities.”
If your child has a long way to go until high school or college, you can get them started on Mandarin early with our Let’s Go Guang educational DVD, picture book with audio and flashcard sets!