Five awarded funds for Hong Kong studies

April 11, 2018
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Jeffrey Ayres (photo below left) is the chief faculty adviser for the Freeman Foundation scholarship students.

Five Saint Michael’s College students learned in December that they have been awarded scholarships from the Freeman Foundation to participate in two-month professional internships in their specific fields of study in Hong Kong from June 17 to August 11, 2018.

The students are Alex Otten, class of 2019, Dagmar Charity Lee Wright, class of 2020, Asah Whalen, class of 2019, Aaron Kalat, class of 2019, and Thomas Crudele, class of 2019. They were selected to receive this grant through a competitive application and interview process. This is the first time Saint Michael’s College students have been awarded internship scholarships from the Freeman Foundation.

Jeffrey Ayres, former dean and professor of political science, Jeff Ayres photois the faculty point person overseeing these internships and will be traveling to Hong Kong during the internship period to meet with students and help them network with alumni in the area. “We anticipate applying for another Freeman Foundation international internship grant to support ideally an expanded number of Saint Michael’s students participating in international internships in summer 2019,” Ayres said. “It is a real honor for Saint Michael’s to have been chosen as one of a small number of colleges and universities across the country to receive funding from the Freeman Foundation to support international internships for students in Asia.” Karen Talentino, vice president for academic affairs, took the lead in securing the funding, based on Ayres’ initial exploratory contact with the Foundation.

The Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) program provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. The goal of the program is to increase the number of U.S. citizens with professional experience in and an understanding of Asia, its people, and its cultures. Recipients of the award are required to share their experiences with their home campuses or communities upon returning in the fall in order to fulfill the program’s goal of encouraging other students to study abroad in Asian countries and increase our overall understanding of Asian cultures.

The five students selected for the scholarships will be participating in a series of preparatory workshops conducted by Saint Michael’s faculty and staff throughout this spring to help prepare them for their specific internships, as well as an online portion through the Academic Internship Council — an organization that helps place U.S. undergraduate students in professional internships in Hong Kong in the areas of their professional or career interests. The students will be receiving information about Hong Kong’s culture, particularly business culture, as well as basic language instruction and overall preparation for an international professional internship experience.

Student Aaron Kalat will be working with a small video production firm in Hong Kong this summer for his Freeman internship and is awaiting more details about a specific site and what his responsibilities will be. Kalat, who said he heard about the Freeman Foundation Scholarship for Study in Asia through a friend who also applied for the scholarship, spoke of the value of understanding Asian cultures and being able to work with people from different backgrounds, noting recent tensions between the U.S. government and the Chinese government in recent years. “The only way to build important cross-cultural relationships that will help bridge the gap between our cultures is to actually travel to Asia, experience their culture, and encourage others to do the same,” he said. “Business is becoming more international, so it is likely that my fellow classmates and I will one day need to work with someone from China or another culture that is very different from ours, and we need to be prepared for these situations.”

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