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Michelle Obama exalts study abroad in China

US First Lady, Michelle Obama, strongly endorsed the USA’s commitment to increasing the number of students it sends overseas while on her visit to China last week, saying that study abroad is a “vital part of our foreign policy.”

"We're providing free online advising for students in China who want to study in the US and the US China Fulbright program is still going strong with more than 3,000 alumni"

“Study abroad is about shaping the future of your countries and the world we all share”

Speaking at the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) in Beijing, which welcomed its first cohort of 20 Stanford undergraduates this week, Obama told students, alumni and staff: “Study abroad is about shaping the future of your countries and the world we all share.”

Washington’s ambassador to Beijing and Stanford alumnus, Max Baucus, also underlined the importance of study abroad, citing his own exchange experience in France.

“I am standing here because of my experience at a study abroad programme,” he said.

Continuing her address in a video conference with students in Stanford, California, Obama urged university and local high school students in Palo Alto to be “citizen diplomats”.

“You realise that we all have a stake in each other’s success – that cures discovered here in Beijing could save lives in America,” she told them. “That clean energy technologies from Silicon Valley in California could improve the environment here in China; that the architecture of an ancient temple in Xi’an could inspire the design of new buildings in Dallas or Detroit.”

In her speech, Obama noted that the US is host to more Chinese students than any other country in the world, but she also focused on US outbound student imperatives.

“We’re sending high school, college and graduate students here to study Chinese,” she said. “We’re inviting teachers from China to teach Mandarin in American schools. We’re providing free online advising for students in China who want to study in the US and the US China Fulbright program is still going strong with more than 3,000 alumni.”

In 2010, the US government launched the ‘100,000 Strong’ project to send 100,000 US students to China by 2014, followed by a similar initiative to promote exchange between the US, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, educators continue to push for more funding; earlier this month international educators lobbied the House of Representatives to introduce the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which would fund one million students to study abroad for credit annually by 2020.

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