Opportunity of a lifetime for two Red Deer youth

Two students from Red Deer have received Government of China Scholarships providing them with a full post-secondary education.

Alyson Biem, a Hunting Hills High School graduate, and Devin Ouellette, a Grade 12 student at Hunting Hills, received scholarships for five years and four years respectively.

Fajun Zhang with the education consul recently presented the scholarships to the students.

“There are two kinds of these scholarships, a partial and a full, and we both received the full. It pays for your tuition, living expenses, medical insurance,” said Ouellette.

The scholarship allows the two youth to continue their education while immersed in Chinese culture, which is what both of them said they want to learn more about.

Ouellette said he wants to major in history, learn about the culture and visit the places he learns about during his stay in China.

“When you learn a language you learn about the culture and that opens your mind and broadens your horizons. That’s definitely something an employer or university looks at when they’re hiring someone or accepting students,” said Ouellette.

Biem wants to major in education and said her goal when she comes back is to get further involved in the schools and help them get a Mandarin language class going.

The Mandarin language course at Hunting Hills is one of the few in the City and is the oldest one of its kind in Red Deer. Other schools are just now starting to add this option.

In order to receive the scholarship Biem and Ouellette, along with thousands of others, had to fill out an application form and write about what they want to achieve while in China.

Ouellette recently spent 10 months in Taiwan as part of an exchange program and said when he came home his teacher, Sandy Cai, asked if he wanted to study in China.

“This is an even longer stay than what I had just finished but when I really thought about it I saw that yeah, this is really what I want,” said Ouellette.

Biem was at work when she got the phone call saying she had received the scholarship and said she was floored to find out that she would receive an opportunity that she thought was otherwise outside her reach.

The two students had to choose their top three universities and Biem said she wanted to be surrounded by people and culture, so she chose Beijing.

“I wanted to experience life outside of the big cities so I chose Wuhan University in central China,” said Ouellette.

School starts at the end of August or early September depending on courses, but they both would like to look further into getting to China a little bit sooner.

“I’d like to be there at least two weeks before to deal with jet lag and get to know the country a bit and get unpacked and settled into the dorms,” said Ouellette.

Ouellette said when he returns home he would really like to ultimately end up as a diplomat for the Canadian government.

Both students said it is important to learn multiple languages and that it opens up all kinds of opportunities for students in their adult lives.

“You can go to another country and still have an ability to communicate and be a part of the culture,” said Biem.