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MUHS graduate headed to China: Henry Ganey wins State Department language scholarship

MIDDLEBURY — The U.S. Department of State has awarded a newly minted Middlebury Union High School graduate a scholarship that will allow him to spend a year studying Chinese in Changzhou, China.
Henry Ganey is one of 600 students from across the United States to receive the scholarship as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), a program affiliated with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
A Middlebury native, Ganey said his desire to learn Chinese came during a trip he took to China and other Asian countries in the summer of 2013.
“While I was there, I fell in love with the culture and country,” he said. “And I was frustrated that I couldn’t understand anything.”
Though MUHS does not offer any Chinese language courses, that did not stop Ganey from trying to learn the language. After that trip, he began searching online for Chinese language programs. The summer after his freshman year at MUHS, he enrolled at StarTalk, a NSLI-Y affiliate program at the University of Vermont, where he began to learn very basic Chinese. He also applied twice to NSLI-Y, but was not accepted until his third try.
Founded in 2006, the mission of NSLI-Y, according the State Department, is “to improve Americans’ ability to communicate in select critical languages to advance international dialogue and increase American economic global competitiveness.”  One of the goals of the program is to develop the next generation of leaders who can use their language skills to foster diplomacy and engage in global dialogues. In addition to Chinese, the program offers scholarships for students to study in Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish-speaking countries.
“It’s a way for young American students to get involved early on in the way the U.S. interacts with other countries,” Ganey said. “They have told us numerous times, ‘You’re an ambassador for the United States while you’re overseas.’ That carries a lot of weight.”
Starting this August, Ganey will be one of 10 U.S. students living in Changzhou, a city of 4.6 million in eastern China. There, for five days a week Ganey and the other students will receive two to three hours of Chinese language instruction. They will also live with host families and enroll at a local high school.
“My main goal is to learn as much Chinese as I can. I hope to establish some good connections with people there (for) when I visit again,” Ganey said.
After the year spent in China, Ganey will enroll at Middlebury College as part of the class of 2022. Ganey said that, while he plans to study Chinese in college, he does not plan on majoring in the language. He said he will be pursuing his interests in Geography and International Politics and Economics.
“I hope to take these language skills and use them (at Middlebury) and maybe attend (the college’s) language school,” he said. “I hope to really immerse myself in the Chinese language and culture because you get out of it as much as you put in.”
As a young observer of the geopolitical landscape, Ganey says he believes that it is crucial for young people to learn the language of one of the world’s fastest-growing superpowers.
“It’s probably not going to be too long until China is the largest economy in the world. They’re flexing their newly growing muscles in eastern Asia and have really become the power there,” he said.
“They’re going to be the ones that the U.S. is going to have to learn how to stand up to and it’s important to have people who have learned the language at a young age,” Ganey continued. “It’s a lot easier to retain and learn the language as a young person than it is as someone whose brain is fully developed.”

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