Coca-Cola Foundation funds scholarship to study abroad in China

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Nimshi Parera, who recently graduated with a government degree, attends regular 8 a.m. meetings along with 15 other students to receive a brief about the day’s assignments while on UT Reporting China Maymester Program this summer.

Photo Credit: Lizzie Chen | Daily Texan Staff

The Study Abroad Office will be awarding scholarships to send first-generation University students to China through a federal initiative to increase global networking.

The Coca-Cola Foundation is awarding $150,000 to UT’s Study Abroad Office to fund the scholarships as part of the 100,000 Strong Initiative, a program developed by the Obama administration to send 100,000 American students to study in China over the next four years. The initiative’s goal is to maintain good relations between the two countries and provide opportunities for underrepresented students to study in foreign countries.

Lori George Billingsley, vice president of Community Relations for Coca-Cola, said in a press release that expanding and globalizing education will support socioeconomic advancement.

“We support education and youth development organizations that teach young people about the countless opportunities they have to better their communities,” Billingsley said. “Most importantly, we support programs that truly empower youth to go out and create positive change.”

Cindy Dicello, a development specialist in the International Office, said the University chose to extend the opportunity to students who are the first in their families to attend college to make studying abroad more accessible.

“We have a study abroad scholarship already for first-generation college students, and we thought we could build upon that program to encourage some of the students to go to China through the Coca-Cola Foundation grant,” Dicello said.

“They may have the interest, but not the means to do so.”

Students can choose from a variety of academic programs to study and earn University credit in China, she said. According to the 100,000 Strong Initiative website, there are currently 10 times more Chinese students studying in the U.S. than Americans studying in China, and 600 times more Chinese study English than Americans study Mandarin.

“China is a country that President Obama and the State Department think more students should be exposed to,” Dicello said. “I think in this day and time, we want to produce globally competent citizens. In order to do that, you need to go out in the world and be exposed to different cultures, communities and experiences, and this is the perfect opportunity to gain that knowledge.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the 100,000 Strong Initiative in May that the relationship between the U.S. and China is critical for future economic advancement.

“Despite the incredible improvements in communication, I think there is still a lot to be learned between our two nations,” Clinton said.