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Five questions with Austin Strange '12

Austin Strange ’12, reflects on his study abroad experiences in China and how William & Mary's emphasis on internationalization shaped his worldview.
What led you to study abroad while at William & Mary?

Actually, studying abroad was one factor that led me to attend William & Mary. I knew that after graduating from high school it was time to get some international experience, and I was impressed with the emphasis put on international education by various university personnel when I visited campus. After arriving at W&M, study abroad was simply a matter of when and where. I studied in Beijing at Tsinghua University in summer 2009, and then twice at Peking University between 2009 and 2011.

How did you become involved in the opening of the William & Mary Confucius Institute?

Professor Yanfang Tang, section coordinator of Chinese studies, has always been supportive of my studies. She is the director of WMCI, and our positive teacher-student relationship as well as my language abilities allowed me to play a facilitating role in the opening of the Institute. Helping to open WMCI was only a short-term task, but nonetheless it provided me with a nice opportunity to engage a larger portion of the Williamsburg Chinese and Chinese-speaking communities through events such as the Global Film Festival and the WMCI’s grand opening festivities.

Why did you become involved in AidData, a collaborative initiative that makes aid information more accessible and usable to a wide range of stakeholders?

I previously worked for AidData Co-Executive Director Brad Parks on a research project about incentives for reform in developing countries. When I returned home from my second study abroad trip to China in 2011, AidData was actively exploring ways to better understand how non-Western countries provide foreign aid. A lot of my research focuses on China's impact on and contributions to the world outside of China, so Brad and I both recognized an opportunity to collaborate. I am currently a Research Associate at AidData and lead a media-based data collection initiative cataloguing China’s aid and investment activities in Africa.

What did you learn at William & Mary that has had the greatest impact on your future plans?

William & Mary taught me to be more tolerant and open-minded. This includes my time in China, which was part of my undergraduate studies. The W&M community is diverse if you consider its relatively small size in comparison to larger institutions. This is especially true from my perspective. I grew up in New England and nearly everyone from my hometown shares similar ethnicities. Spending a lot of time abroad helps one realize that there is probably a large gap between how he or she perceives the world and what it is actually like. I am planning on applying to graduate international relations programs beginning this winter.

What would you like the world to know about W&M?

The university does a lot of things effectively considering its small size and often limited resources. It's able to foster a vibrant learning community that is able to adapt to new environments and technologies without losing its character in the process. W&M's positive interactions and engagements with international students, faculty and programs are a big part of this.