For Culver, a mother of three, the desire to spend an extensive amount of time in the country has been more than a decade in the making. To aid her in her education, Culver applied for and received a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
“I decided to go back to school full time in January 2011 and I started taking classes at Chattahoochee Tech to knock out some of my core curriculum and then I transferred to KSU [to study international affairs]. My drive to go to KSU was mostly because it’s local, but also because they had Chinese language [courses],” Culver said. “About 12 years ago I decided I wanted to learn Chinese and so I went to the library and read books and that sort of thing.”
She continued, “I was in logistics for about 17 years and so we would deal with exporting products to China and just looking at their customs, looking at the language on the forms and the writing — that was very intriguing to me ... I went and I started taking courses in Chinese and then I decided to take a short-term trip last year that lasted for three weeks in China and I fell in love with that country. I went to Beijing, Hong Cho and Shanghai ... but my goal all along was to do a more intensive language program because the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it.
“I started looking at the different programs that were out there and the [International Student Exchange Program] appealed to me the most and they had this opportunity to go to the Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics in Nanchang, which is in southern China, and it’s not the typical location ... I think the combination of it being in southern China and it being non-touristy and a complete language immersion, all of those elements were appealing to me and now is the right time because for the most part I’m done with my course work except for maybe four classes.”
She said she would not be able to make the transition of going back to school and taking advantage of the studying abroad opportunity without the aid of her family as a support system.
“I have a spouse and my dad is nearby so I have people who can support me,” Culver said. “Two of my children are still minors, so I know the struggle parents go through to try to pursue an education and add on an international component, but it’s so important to pursue it if you want to pursue it because it also sets an example for your own children.
“With the Gilman scholarship, that program entertains community colleges as well and they really look for people who are diverse and don’t normally represent a traditional student coming right out of high school, so if someone is a working person or a professional and they are thinking I want to go and get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, I also want to study abroad, if you’re interested, especially in a critical language like Mandarin Chinese ... there’s money out there and there are opportunities out there for people who are interested.”
According to the JUFE website, “Under the leadership of Jiangxi Province and the Ministry of Finance of China, as well as the Ministry of Education of China, the focus of JUFE is on turning enthusiasm into achieving the highest levels of merit in transmitting knowledge and understanding. After 90 years of development, there are 21 teaching and research institutes in JUFE, including 20 schools and 1 independent college, which delivery of 49 undergraduate programs, 103 postgraduate programs, 30 doctoral programs and 5 postdoctoral programs.”