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Jiayi Zhou, a graduate student in Gallaudet’s Masters of International Development Program and a citizen of China, talked about her experiences pursuing higher education in the United States, and how it made her realize how much she could accomplish as a deaf person, at the EducationUSA Forum supported by the U.S. Department of State, held June 22 to 24 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

According to its website, EducationUSA is a global network of more than 400 advising centers supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State that promotes U.S. higher education around the world. The annual forums are designed for international admission and enrollment management professionals at U.S. colleges and universities who seek to enhance their international student recruitment.

Zhou was a panelist at the forum with four other international students from Europe and Eurasia who are enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. She was joined by Geoffrey Khaminwa (American University), from Kenya; Lucas Stratmann (Georgetown University), from Germany; Amir Anwar (George Washington University), from Malaysia; and Liliana Ochoa (Montgomery College), from Colombia.

Zhou told the audience that she applied to Gallaudet after a group of deaf study abroad students from the University visited her school for deaf students in China. Prior to that day, Zhou had no knowledge of Gallaudet’s existence, and she was shocked at the confidence the deaf students possessed in comparison to her fellow students. She applied to Gallaudet, and after being accepted, entered the English Language Institute to learn American Sign Language and English. Along with acquiring new language skills, she learned about American culture. Zhou says that the experience of being a student in the United States helped her become more assertive and curious about the world around her. She went on to complete an undergraduate degree in graphic design at Gallaudet before deciding to pursue a master’s degree. She was the recipient of a prestigious World Deaf Leadership scholarship, an endowed scholarship funded by the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, Japan.

Many of the panelists addressed the problem of international students becoming stuck in a “bubble” by socializing only with other international students. Zhou pointed out the help Gallaudet’s Center for International Programs and Services (CIPS) provides through an orientation program before the academic year begins and skilled staff who are always on hand to help the students feel more at home in a foreign country. In addition, Gallaudet hosts an International Awareness Week to bring together international and domestic students. Zhou said she feels very grateful to receive this kind of support from her university.

According to Dr. Asiah Mason, director of CIPS, “This U.S. State Department education forum is a prestigious annual event attended by hundreds of university international education leaders and education attaches from many U.S. embassies around the globe. To be selected by the State Department means that Gallaudet is seen as a higher education institution recognized for producing student diplomats and promoting equality and peace in the global stage.”

Zhou was a good choice to represent Gallaudet, said Mason. She explained that Zhou “is an example of how a U.S. educational institution can change lives and promote cultural understanding and opportunity to improve deaf education in China for deaf people.”

–Tanya Sturgis, student writer

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