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Two students win scholarships to study Chinese language, culture

Two Northeastern students studying international business have earned scholarships to spend eight months in China studying the language and culture through the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program.

Second-year student Nick Sypteras and third-year student Jacob Fabricius depart for China on Saturday. The program comprises studying language and culture at Shaanxi Normal University, participating in five-week internships at Chinese companies within the Xi’an High-Tech Development Zone, and taking educational field trips to cultural sites while studying in the Shannxi Province.

The Fulbright-Hays scholarships were funded through the U.S. Department of Education, which provides international education grants to various institutions and organizations across the country. Sypteras and Fabricius’ awards were administered by the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s China Program Center, one of the institutions that received the federal grants.

Fourteen other students at New England universities and colleges also earned the honor. The selection criteria included Chinese language proficiency, the ability to serve as a cultural ambassador, and leadership and communication skills.

For Sypteras and Fabricius, this cultural-immersion program marks a return to the Asian nation. Last summer, both students participated in a Dialogue of Civilizations program to China, where they spent six weeks taking intensive language classes, working at various Chinese companies, and meeting key figures in government, industry, art, culture, and journalism during lectures and site visits around the country.

“The Dialogue program prepared us extremely well for this new experience,” Fabricius said.

“It was useful to examine the differences between Chinese and American businesses,” added Sypteras. “The goal we shared was to come away from the Dialogue with proficiency in Chinese language, culture, and business. If our careers ever take us there, we’ll be ready for that experience.”

Hua Dong, an academic specialist and coordinator of the Chinese Language Program at Northeastern, has led the Dialogue program to China since 2007. Dong noted that she was impressed with the students’ work not only in China last summer but also in her Chinese language course prior to the Dialogue program.

“Both students were open to all kinds of challenges they faced,” Dong said. “They were also quite resilient to the difficult challenges I presented in our language class.

“While they are business students, they are curious about all aspects of Chinese culture. They didn’t just focus on the Chinese businesses and ignore the social and cultural history. I think that’s what makes them really stand out.”