Growing up in California, Allan Lao learned about his Chinese heritage but was never able to experience it for himself. He is the first in his family to be born in the United States and had never had the opportunity to travel overseas and visit the homeland of his ancestors.
A brochure received in part because of his Phi Theta Kappa membership changed that.
The International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) allows community college students to study one of five career fields in five countries: Australia, China, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States (San Francisco). Programs are major-specific and hold opportunities in Business and Entrepreneurship, Engineering and Technology, International Relations and Diplomacy, Medicine and Science, and Nursing and Health Care.
“It gave me an excuse to get out of my comfort zone,” Lao said. “It gave me a new type of excitement, I guess. I also saw it as an opportunity to advance my knowledge of engineering and culture in China.”
Phi Theta Kappa has partnered with ISLP to offer $10,000 in scholarships for its members to participate. The deadline to apply for a position in the summer 2016 ISLP delegation is February 26; the deadline to apply for a scholarship is March 11.
Lao, a member of the Alpha Sigma Delta Chapter at Merced College in California, received an $800 scholarship to help fund his trip to China during the summer of 2014. He is an aerospace/mechanical engineering major and was able to tour companies such as Pratt & Whitney Shanghai Engine Center, a Volkswagen assembly plant and one of China’s major software design companies with a group of about 30 other engineering students.
“It was nice being with people who had similar interests and education as myself,” he said. “It’s also nice to talk to people who really know what you’re talking about!
“None of us really spoke any bit of Chinese, and my knowledge of the language didn’t really help much either, but the fact that we had each other made it more interesting.”
Rina Annisa, former president of the Alpha Theta Eta Chapter at Olney Central College in Illinois, also traveled to China through ISLP in the summer of 2014. She is no stranger to foreign travel — originally from Indonesia, she spent her senior year as a high school exchange student in North Carolina.
Annisa had previously traveled to Chongqing, China, in 2009 as a participant of a different study abroad program and was eager to return. While she initially applied to the Business and Entrepreneurship forum in Australia and New Zealand, she eagerly accepted a scholarship to attend the International Relations and Diplomacy forum in China.
“I was actively seeking a program that would give me a chance to experience foreign cultures and a career interest at the same time,” she said. “ISLP offered outstanding programs with a great combination of professional development and engagement activities.”
During her trip, Annisa and her group were able to visit the home of a local in Xi’an. It instantly reminded her of the culture in her home country and served as a stark reminder of the differences in Eastern and Western culture.
“Having a first-hand experience to understand a culture – whether from a formal discussion or eating a traditional grilled squid on the street – will always be a memorable learning experience,” she said.
ISLP took Jessica Troxel, a recent Phi Theta Kappa alumna and Indiana’s 2014 New Century Scholar, to Australia and New Zealand over the summer of 2014 with the Business and Entrepreneurship delegation. While she could have traveled to China or San Francisco, she admits the Australian and New Zealand accents swayed her decision.
“It was yet another opportunity directly related to my hard work,” she said. “I knew it was a long shot raising the amount of money required. I believed in my ability and myself; I knew I could count on my family, friends, campus and community to back me up on this experience.
“I also knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and was thrilled!”
Troxel is a single mother to two boys. She also lost her left arm in a car accident in 2008. Despite the challenges she has faced, she proved herself to be a leader at Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington and is today a social work major at Indiana University. Her travels abroad — including a trip to Guatemala in early 2014 — have awakened in her an interest in Cultural and Social Anthropology.
“This experience did change me in ways that are almost difficult to explain,” she said. “It was a lot of personal growth and deep personal reflection in relation to my circumstances as a ‘disabled’ person that is a woman full of ability. No amount of money or words can define the tremendous value on that.
“My travel experience has opened my eyes to a much larger world with so many more possibilities. I realized that after I earn my degree, I could work in another country or study in another country of do anything I want to do.”