Four members of Vassar’s Class of 2014 will be continuing their education, with the help of a scholarship to study at Chinese universities.
Joshua Cartwright and Katherine Neville will study Chinese language at Fudan University and Zhejiang University, respectively, while Sheeva Seyfi will be off to study diplomacy at Shanghai International Studies University and Kiersta Hsi will begin a master’s degree in visual arts communication design at Donghua University. All are recipients of the Chinese Government Scholarship, which was created through the China Scholarship Council and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York to promote the study of the Chinese language and related disciplines. The newly minted alumnae/i will leave in the coming weeks to register for classes and move into their homes for the next 10 months.
For Seyfi, it’s an opportunity to soak up the experience of living in another country—something she’s done before. She studied abroad in Spain, interned in Argentina, and is spending this summer in Austria working for a refugee organization that helps resettle Iranians into the United States. While Seyfi’s language skills have been a boon so far in her foreign travels—she speaks Spanish and Persian—they won’t help Shanghai, she says. Luckily, Seyfi says, the diplomacy classes she will take are in English.
“I think it’s going to be a very international community,” she says, noting that it will be interesting to see what will be taught and what books will be used. “I have no idea what to expect.”
Hsi’s trip will not be her first to China—she’s lived and studied there a few times—but it will be her first time in Shanghai, the city from which her grandparents immigrated in the 1940s.
“I’m most excited to learn the ins and outs of Shanghai,” Hsi says. “Particularly its culture, customs, food, relationships, and neighborhoods in the city.”
China is such a draw for Hsi that for her senior project, she spent a year researching and writing a book—in both English and Chinese—about Chinese history and her grandparents’ journey from China to the United States. Her Vassar coursework, as well as an internship at an art gallery, has given her a deep appreciation of China’s artwork, Hsi says.
“I’m very excited to explore the art world in Shanghai and the contemporary art spaces that have developed there over the last decade,” she says.
Hsi first learned about the scholarship as a senior in high school, but she was actually awarded one late in the summer, weeks before entering her freshman year at Vassar. Because of the late notice, Hsi says she turned it down, preferring to attend Vassar and reapply for the scholarship following her senior year. For Seyfi, the award came after searching through study abroad scholarship opportunities to places she had yet to travel.
“That’s a huge reason I was looking at Asia and Shanghai specifically,” she says.
Though one is a newcomer to China and the other a five-time visitor, both say they are looking forward to the school year and the new experiences it will bring. One day, Seyfi says, she’ll have too much responsibility—a career and family—to be able to travel so freely.
“More than anything, I would recommend getting out of the United States while you can,” she says.
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