In January 2020, the English Language Center (ELC) welcomed a group of Chinese undergraduate students to participate in a program in International Organizations and Careers in collaboration with the United States International Education Association (USIEA). The three-week student exchange encouraged participating students and educators to reflect on the value of cultural awareness and exchange, as well as to explore D.C. as an epicenter of history and international politics.
Students stayed in private apartments in Pentagon City, VA for the duration of the program, but did not miss out on the chance to explore the city, taking frequent field trips to Washington, DC’s storied monuments and museums. The program blended on-the-ground learning with rigorous academic work; in addition to exploring important places in DC, students participated in an integrated English language skills course, as well as received content-based instruction on a wide range of topics relating to governance, education, cybersecurity, and intellectual property, all explored within a global lens. Jane Stanga, a faculty member in the English Language Center, served as the program’s primary instructor and said she worked to prepare students with the right background knowledge and vocabulary to tackle their courses, as well as to participate in meaningful discussions with guest speakers.
Speakers included Jennifer Ward, a former US Ambassador to Niger and School of Foreign Service Associate Dean, who spoke on international diplomacy, and Shawn Baker-Garcia and Jordan Wilhelm, from VA-based consultancy The Critical Mass, who lectured about international security policy. Students were also hosted by NAFSA (the Association of International Educators) for a day where they learned about the role of international exchange in promoting global citizenship.
Program field trips further contributed to students’ understanding of course material: they took a tour of the U.S. Supreme Court where they learned about the United States’ legislative and judicial processes, several visits to the National Mall, and a trip to the National Archives to witness formative pieces of American history like the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution.
Students also had the chance to take part in uniquely “DC” experiences, including celebrating Chinese New Year in the Capital and witnessing the annual March for Life and counter protests. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, they were able to visit the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where King made his iconic “I have a dream” speech and celebrate Dr. King’s continued legacy in the United States today. While visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, students spontaneously met a veteran and spoke with him about his experiences serving the country.
Students also had the opportunity to share their findings and insights from their time in D.C.: The program culminated with students delivering their final presentations on a wide range of topics pertaining to international relations, with a focus on human rights.
“Nobody wants to stand in front of a group and give a presentation in their second language,” Stanga said. “But they really worked hard at it and did a great job. In the end, the consensus of the group was that learning to confidently express important ideas was one of their most valued classroom experiences.”
A month later, Stanga looks back at the USIEA program as not just an enjoyable learning experience for students, but also as one for herself.
“I would not hesitate to have a group like that back,” Stanga concluded. “They were so interesting and such great learners. I miss them.”
Author Meena Raman (’20) is a graduating senior in Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.