Broadening Language Skills in East Asia
With Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, USC Dornsife undergraduates are studying Mandarin in Beijing and Taiwan.By Ambrosia Brody
June 21, 2012
A USC Dornsife recent graduate and undergraduate have received the Summer 2012 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for their commitment to developing their Mandarin language skills. They are spending the Summer semester in Taiwan and Beijing, China, studying the East Asian language.
Angel Lopez of political science and Leowil Villanueva, a triple major in international relations (global business), East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) and Spanish, were among six USC undergraduate and graduate students named FLAS Fellows for Summer 2012. Recipients are each awarded $5,000 toward tuition at various universities abroad and a $2,500 stipend.
“Receiving the FLAS Fellowship means so much to me,” Villanueva said. “It’s very humbling to be recognized for my educational efforts.”
Awarded by USC Dornsife’s East Asian Studies Center with funding from a United States Department of Education Title VI grant, the FLAS Fellowship supports outstanding graduate and undergraduate students from all schools and disciplines at USC to assist in strengthening their Chinese, Japanese or Korean language skills and East Asian area studies.
FLAS fellows are committed to using their training to serve in government or international agencies or other fields that help to advance American understanding of other countries.
“Angel and Leowil are ideal USC students for the prestigious FLAS award,” said David Kang, director of the East Asian Studies Center and the USC Korean Studies Institute, housed in USC Dornsife, who along with USC Dornsife’s Lori Meeks, associate professor of religion and EALC, and Brett Sheehan, associate professor of history, is a member of the FLAS Fellowship selection committee.
“FLAS really gives students a taste of what it requires to become an expert in a specific area and an opportunity to dive into language study.”
When he arrived at USC Dornsife, Lopez, who graduated with a bachelor’s in political science in May 2012, sought to find his niche.
During EASC’s 2011 USC Global East Asia scholarship program in Shanghai, he discovered a passion for East Asia. He departed May 25 for a three-month trip to Taiwan to study Mandarin at National Taiwan University.
“My 2011 trip to China sparked my interest in international endeavors and East Asia policies,” Lopez said. “There are many opportunities to practice immigration law or pursue green technology business ventures in East Asia and knowing more about the culture will help me do that.”
At USC, Lopez helped reestablish the USC Energy Club, aimed at educating students in energy through community outreach and events. Additionally, he was a member of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, geared toward establishing L.A. as a leader in clean technologies.
“What made Angel stand out to us is the diversity of what he is doing,” said Kang, professor of international relations and business. “He is involved in green issues, interested in China and wants to get a JD-MBA. For us it was a must to help him to foster his career to do business in China.”
In Taiwan, Lopez of La Puente, Calif., is pursuing an internship at a holding firm to provide him with business experience.
“I know that I would have somehow ended up in East Asia,” Lopez said, “but this award gives me the opportunity to get there much sooner.”
Taking his parents’ advice to see the world, Villanueva traveled to Beijing on May 19 as part of the EALC’s 2012 USC Chinese Summer Program in Beijing. He is studying Mandarin Chinese at Capital Normal University in Beijing for two months. Outside of class, he is exploring the city, visiting historic sites and experiencing Xi'an, China and Seoul, Korea.
“I’ve always wanted to be an international person and I want my work and studies to reflect that,” Villanueva said. “Being able to speak Mandarin Chinese will give me access to the country and allow me to communicate with the people if I go into business, law or public service in East Asia.”
A first-generation college student from Anaheim, Calif., Villanueva is immersing himself in the Chinese culture as he learns more about the country’s history. In addition to being named a FLAS Fellow, Villanueva received the 2012 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which provides grants to U.S. undergraduates to study abroad. The award will be applied toward his trip to Beijing.
“Leowil has embraced understanding China,” Kang said. “We want students like Leowil to be exposed to East Asia as the U.S. continues to do more work and involve more culturally and economically with China.”
An aspiring lawyer who also speaks Tagalog or Filipino and is learning Spanish, Villanueva believes additional language skills will propel him toward his goal of practicing immigration or corporate law in East Asia or California.
“I’m not sure that I would have been able to take this trip if not for this award,” Villanueva said. “I’ve always been interested in the Chinese culture and now I have the opportunity to study Mandarin in Beijing.”