Willamette students earn awards to study abroad in China this year

by University Communications,

Two students, Yasmine Genena ’16 and Shelby Decker ’16, will spend part of the year studying in China after winning a scholarship from the Benjamin Gilman International Scholars Program.

“It means a lot to me to be recognized by the program and to receive the award,” Genena says. “It gives me even more trust that studying abroad in China will be transformational.”

The Gilman program is administered by the Institute for International Education and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Its purpose is encourage students to study and and intern abroad, particularly in areas outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Genena, an international studies major, will spend fall semester at East China University for Politics and Law in Shanghai, China. While there, she will study Chinese and take courses in economics and politics.

Decker, a chemistry major and Chinese studies minor, will participate in an intensive language study program at Peking University in Beijing this summer. The Council on International Educational Exchange sponsors the program.

“I have been interested in China since I saw my first Bruce Lee film as a kid,” Decker says. “I am something of a sinophile, and there is no better place to get my fill of Chinese culture than Beijing.”

In China, Decker says he’s eager to improve his Chinese, talk with locals and get off at random subway stops to explore the city. Genena says she’s looking forward to making new friends and immersing herself in another culture.

“One of my main goals is to discover things that I am passionate about to help guide me in my life,” she says. “As my trip gets closer, I become more certain that studying abroad in Shanghai was the right decision.”

Genena is a member of Delta Gamma sorority and has participated in Take a Break, a student-led alternative spring break program. When she returns from China, she hopes to share stories of her experiences through Language in Motion and Student Scholarship Recognition Day.

Decker is a cross country and track athlete at Willamette, who also serves as a university tour guide. He’s been recognized for his academic excellence by the Center for Asian Studies, which also awarded him a scholarship to fund his trip to Beijing.

For more information about the Gilman program and similar educational opportunities, contact Student Academic Grants and Awards.