In February 2015, The American Chamber of Commerce in China and 100,000 Strong Foundation announced a new partnership designed to further enhance US-China relations. US Ambassador to China Max Baucus hosted a reception at his residence in Beijing to celebrate.
I was honored with an invitation to attend the reception as a representative of OneWorld Now!. OneWorld Now! is the very organization that supported and encouraged me to make the academic and professional decisions that led me to this dinner at the ambassador’s residence. I got to mingle and speak with Foreign Service Officers and representatives of organizations who all believe that encouraging American students to study abroad in China would build better US-China relations.
Ambassador Baucus gave a speech about how important it is for Americans to be in China. He said that the people-to-people exchange between American and Chinese students is an investment in the future of America because we, the current youth, are the future leaders of our world. It was an honor to be part of this event and to be in the presence of like-minded people who believe in how important it is to shape a globalized future. During the dinner I had the great luck of sitting next to Melodee Hanes, wife of US Ambassador Max Baucus who was very interested in my story and we spoke at length about OneWorld Now! and how I came to be studying in China.
My journey has been an amazing one, one that began with my decision to study Mandarin Chinese as a high school student with OneWorld Now!, It changed the entire trajectory of my life. I am entirely grateful for all the lessons I learned not just in the language component of OneWorld Now! but in the global leadership courses which taught me to lean into discomfort to maximize my learning experience. I learned I should never allow money to be a factor in how I develop my future. I learned that compassion extends beyond the borders of country and we are all responsible for each other’s well-being, and that concept really solidified itself only after I received a full scholarship and came to China for the first time. A profound change happened and I gained an incomparable appreciation after coming back from China for travel and new experiences. I gained an incomparable appreciation for my life in America and a new awareness of what it means for me to be an American. All this help I received in developing my present and future inspired me to want to give back and I am setting that foundation so that I can be a Foreign Service Officer, to be a liaison between the United States and other countries.
Those experiences and more are all part of what led me to this particular dinner. At the end of the night, when all the guests had started filtering out, Melodee Hanes gave me a hug and made the announcement that everyone should watch out because right there standing next to her was a future Foreign Service Officer. With the confidence instilled in me by the lessons I’ve learned from OneWorld Now!, from my experiences abroad and home, I will be.
By Pauline Heng, OWN Alumna & 100K Student Ambassador