Roanoke graduate receives Fulbright grant to study in China

This article was featured in the Roanoke Magazine, Issue 2, 2013. The full issue can be seen here.

Salem - Kathleen Ouyang has a natural fascination with Chinese history.

Her grandparents are natives of China, and Ouyang has longed to one day have a conversation with them in Chinese.

Ouyang, who graduated from Roanoke in May, is on her way to achieving that goal. She is headed to China this summer for a 14-month language learning and research trip with the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The prestigious Fulbright program, administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), funds opportunities for students and young professionals to conduct advanced research or teach English courses. It awards about 1,900 grants annually and operates in more than 140 countries.

Ouyang will research the impact of heritage tourism in the city of Xi'an, one of the oldest cities in China and the starting point of the renowned Silk Road. Xi'an has a population of more than 8 million. Ouyang will evaluate historic sites from a tourist's point of view, interview travelers to the city and analyze and collect economic information about the domestic and foreign tourism industry in Xi'an.

"I want it to be a history project, but it's also sociology, business and economics of the city," she said. "It's very interdisciplinary."

Ouyang will live in a dormitory at Xibei University (Northwest University) in Xi'an, where she has been paired with an advisor who is an archaeology professor at the university.

This will not be Ouyang's first time visiting Xi'an, located in central northwest China. She traveled there last summer with three other Roanoke students and history professor, Dr. Stella Xu, for a research fellowship through the Freeman Foundation. The foundation aims to strengthen Asian studies in liberal arts education.

Xu encouraged Ouyang to apply for the Fulbright program last year, and she worked with Ouyang to finalize her research proposal. She also connected Ouyang with her advisor at Xibei University.

At Roanoke, Ouyang majored in history, with a concentration in East Asian studies. She was part of the College's Undergraduate Research Assistants Program, which pairs students with professors to conduct research, and she held several leadership positions in the College's Historical Society.  She also helped to revive Asian Students United, a campus organization for Asian and non-Asian students interested in Asian culture and connecting with one another.

Ouyang, of Potomac, Md., hopes to publish her final Fulbright work, and she said she will consider using it for a graduate school thesis project. Eventually, she plans to attend graduate school and study Chinese history.

Her primary goal is to master the Chinese language. She took Chinese classes at Roanoke, but in July, she leaves for an intense language study in China as part of the Fulbright's Critical Language Enrichment Award. She will start her Fulbright research once language classes end in October.

"If I want to study Chinese history, language is a really crucial part," Ouyang said.

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its "Best 376 Colleges" 2012 guidebook.

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Released: May 29, 2013
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