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Public Administration Major Finds Career Calling in China

by Connie K. Ho | February 6th, 2012

Juanique McNeill had never been on a plane before. It was her first time ever getting on an aircraft, first time going to another country, a plethora of firsts. The thoughts, “I can’t believe that I’m doing this,” raced through her head as she felt excited and flabbergasted at the same time. She was going to China through a program funded by Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA). Even though she had a rush of emotions, she felt glad she was getting the chance to step outside of her comfort zone. In her eyes, where she’s from, people don’t even step outside of their city.

McNeill has since traveled to China twice more with APSA; once more as a program participant, and a second time as an ambassador. As a program attendee, she had the opportunity to learn Chinese and be immersed in the Chinese culture. McNeill explained her initial impressions in China.

“I learned more about the Chinese culture and to accept people, no matter where they’re from,” commented McNeill. “Just because your culture is different from mine, I think we find similar things in our cultures together.”

Besides language and culture components, the program also included a service learning aspect. McNeill had the opportunity to teach English to migrant students and she created lessons to teach them the alphabet and numbers. After her time with the students, she understood the challenges that some working class students faced.

“It changed me. On the outskirts, I saw the real issues of China. They’re not out in the open because people don’t want them to know about it, but I could see myself giving back to the kids,” remarked McNeill. “The students were so attentive. They were really eager to learn and wanted to take in everything.”

Following her visits in the summer of 2008 and 2009, McNeill was invited to be a volunteer ambassador for APSA. One of the perks of her work as a volunteer was the opportunity to attend a performance that was promoting President Barack Obama administration’s initiative to send 100,000 students to study abroad in China over the next few years.

“I feel like [APSA] was a good program for me. It changed my life. If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t know what the direction of my life would be,” explained McNeill.

Photos via Juanique McNeill

Juanique McNeill is a Public Administration major with a minor in Chinese at North Carolina Central University. Her career goals are to work in rural China through programs like Teach for China and the Peace Corps. Ultimately, she hopes to work at the U.S. State Department.

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