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Meanwhile, Portland program is giving students a huge boost in college

May 27, 2015

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Boren Scholar with a talent for study abroad makes plans for China

May 8, 2015 – 1:08pm

When she was in kindergarten, Megan Garland did the usual things 5-year-olds do — she counted, she colored, she learned Chinese.

She didn’t know it then, but China would soon fill her horizon, and no mere ocean would keep them apart. Now the UO’s newest Boren Scholar, Garland is about to graduate with degrees in Chinese and international studies before crossing the Pacific to spend a year in the country that has captivated her for so long.

“It’s just a really interesting place. It’s so different,” the UO senior said recently of her China fascination. “But the people are really, really nice, and its culture is just this interesting mix of modernism and traditional Chinese.”

The Boren Awards for International Study are among the most coveted scholarships for students who wish to study abroad. An initiative of the National Security Education Program, they can run from a summer to a semester to a full year.

Garland received a full-year, $20,000 scholarship to study at Nanjing University in the eastern city of the same name. She will spend half the year taking classes, some with other American students and others with Chinese students, and then do an internship for the remainder of the year.

But it won’t be Garland’s first trip to China. Or her second or third, for that matter.

She’s already had three study-abroad trips to China and made other visits on vacation. And it all traces back to kindergarten, when Garland was in the first-ever class of a Mandarin immersion program in Portland Public Schools.

The program places students in Chinese-speaking classes half the day and English classes the other half, starting in kindergarten. Garland was among the first 40 students enrolled.

The UO later partnered with Portland schools to establish the nation’s first K-16 Chinese Flagship language program, making it all but inevitable that Garland would ultimately enroll here. The program worked so well that when Garland arrived as a freshman, she tested into the Chinese language program at the 400 course level, effectively allowing her to skip most of the lower-division curriculum.

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