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Two Trojans sharpen language skills in East Asia

Learning a new language while strengthening an understanding of how business is conducted in East Asia is the primary focus of the Summer 2012 Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship.

A USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences graduate and undergraduate have received the Summer 2012 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for a commitment to developing Mandarin-language skills. The students are spending the summer semester in Taiwan and China studying the East Asian language.

Angel Lopez ’12 and Leowil Villanueva, a triple major in international relations (global business), East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) and Spanish, were among six USC students named FLAS fellows for this summer. Recipients are awarded $5,000 toward tuition at various universities abroad and a $2,500 stipend.

“Receiving the 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 U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant, the 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 (EASC) and the USC Korean Studies Institute, housed at USC Dornsife, who along with Lori Meeks, associate professor of religion, 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.”

Lopez, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in May, sought to find his niche when he arrived at USC Dornsife.

During the EASC’s USC Global East Asia scholarship program in Shanghai last year, Lopez discovered a passion for East Asia. In late May, he departed 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, which aims to educate students in energy through community outreach and events. In addition, he was a member of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator geared toward establishing the city 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.”

Lopez is pursuing an internship at a holding firm in Taiwan 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. He is studying Mandarin Chinese at Capital Normal University for two months. Outside of class, he is exploring the city, visiting historic sites and experiencing Taiwan and Shanghai.

“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, 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 [interact] more culturally and economically with China.”

An aspiring lawyer who also speaks Tagalog 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.”

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Two Trojans sharpen language skills in East Asia

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