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St. Kate’s student earns trip to Beijing conference

Mai Thao Xiong ’13 and a view from Taipei 101 (in Taiwan), formerly the world's tallest building.
Mai Thao Xiong ’13 and a view from Taipei 101 (in Taiwan), formerly the world's tallest building.
Photo courtesy of Mai Thao Xiong ’13

Mai Thao Xiong ’13 has been in Korea for nearly a year. But instead of rushing home to the Twin Cities when her study abroad experience ends in June, she’s jetting off to China.

Xiong, a dual major in English and communications at St. Catherine University, recently received a “100,000 Strong” grant to be part of the 2011 US-China International Youth Festival, July 12-August 8, in Beijing. The Education Association for China Tomorrow (EACT) has organized the festival in response to the 100,000 Strong initiative announced by President Barack Obama in November 2009.

The initiative is a national effort designed to increase the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially launched it in May 2010 in Beijing, and in support, the Chinese government committed 10,000 “Bridge Scholarships” for American students to study in China.

Xiong was one of 100 “outstanding US youth” selected by EACT to attend the four-week International Youth Festival, which provides students the opportunity to experience China firsthand and to dialogue with their peers across the world.

“I remember being really sad about having just a couple months left in Asia before I had to go back home,” Xiong says. “And then a friend sent me this festival link. I applied for the grant because the festival really hits what I'm interested in. I have learned Chinese for one year and have always wanted to go to China. Also, I was looking for the next big thing to do.”

A Katie in Beijing

The 100,000 Strong grant will cover all her expenses in Beijing. In addition to being a festival participant and volunteer, Xiong has also been selected to coordinate a festival workshop and speak on “multi-identities, cultural mix, heritage awareness and acculturation.”

“This presentation is based on personal interest,” she explains. “This subject is really close to me and I always find myself doing side research on topics like these, especially multi-identity issues and acculturation. I think being in Korea where I am still both an American and a minority from an ethnic minority group, Hmong, I find myself constantly talking about these things even more with my friends.”

Xiong received the CIEE Robert B. Bailey diversity scholarship to study at Yonsei University in Seoul during her first year at St. Kate’s. She was one of five Katies who earned study-abroad scholarships to Korea in 2010.

“I am very excited for the festival,” Xiong says. “I have been in Korea since August, and my experience here has taught me to love learning through travel.”

China, here she comes.

May 17, 2011 by Pauline Oo

See also: Leadership, Liberal Arts, Students