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Bullskin woman travels abroad for foreign language study

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Amber Brown, 20, of Bullskin stands before Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, a landmark skyscraper in the Xinyi District of Taipei, Taiwan. Photo taken in July 2014
Amber Brown (foreground), 20, of Bullskin enjoys activities with a classmate while studying at the Chinese Language Center at Fu Jen Catholic University in Tapai, Taiwan this month. Brown, an international business major, will begin her junior year this fall at St. Vincent College in Unity.

Bullskin's Amber Brown originally planned to major in biology at the collegiate level.

That was before Brown, 20, got a taste of international travel while visiting friend Ferdinando Frediani in the city of Lucca in Italy's Tuscany region during the summer of 2011.

“(Frediani) was a foreign exchange student at our school, and we became friends,” said Brown, a 2012 Connellsville Area graduate.

“Once I spent that summer abroad, I realized I wanted to make travel a part of the career I would pursue,” she said.

With that in mind, Brown, along with 23 other students at the Unity school, are taking part in the college's study abroad program, where she and the others are spending three weeks learning about foreign languages and cultures across three continents.

“I've always been good at learning foreign languages,” she said.

An international business major who in the fall will start her junior year, Brown is spending the trip in Taiwan, Republic of China.

College's alumnus helps finance trip

Brown is enrolled in the Chinese Language Center at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan, according to Sara M. Hart, director of the study abroad program at St. Vincent.

She received full scholarship funding for tuition, excursions, books, and housing total $1,200 via a yearly gift provided by a St. Vincent alumnus who participated in the program a few years ago, Hart said.

She also received a $1,000 scholarship for the trip from the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government.

While taking classes Monday through Friday, Brown will earn six credits in Intermediate Chinese I and II, Hart said.

Fu Jen Language Center is one of the oldest non-degree Chinese language learning centers in Taiwan.

It was founded in 1964, under the direction of the then president of Fu Jen, His Excellency Paul Cardinal Yu Pin, by the Society of the Divine Word, to address the need for foreign missionaries to learn Chinese.

Designed for students with little or no background in Chinese, the program will allow Brown to further the completion of her St. Vincent core language requirement, she said.

The intensive language program was complemented by a cultural component to teach students such as Brown about Taiwan and Taiwanese culture.

The Taiwan Ministry of Education offers funding for short-term Chinese language study for U.S. students who want to focus on learning traditional Chinese characters and Taiwan culture.

Student prepares for journey

Brown was told of the opportunity to take part in her current trip by her adviser, Gary Quinlivan, dean of the McKenna School and professor of economics.

““What Amber is doing is really remarkable,” Quinlivan said. “It's literally her and maybe two other students, and its five hours of intensive Chinese a day. She's learning both the traditional and the abbreviated characters. She'll almost be able to read a (Chinese) newspaper when she comes back. It's incredible. Amber is a delightful student, and I know she is getting the most she can out of this.”

To prepare for her trip, Brown enrolled in a spring semester course this year called Elementary Chinese, she said.

The course conveyed a method of absorbing rudimentary aspects of the Chinese language through a process known as pinyin, the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet in China, Taiwan and Singapore, she said.

“You have to know the English meaning of the Chinese character, and the proper pronunciation of the character,” she said. “I'm kind of hoping I can interact with people there and carry on conversations.”

In addition, Brown mapped out various destinations she said she would like to explore while staying there.

Parents provide positive influence

Brown took five years of Spanish at Connellsville Area and traveled to Mexico with members of her graduating class there during her senior year.

She was influenced to learn Spanish, and subsequently Italian, by her father, Tony Brown, who also speaks Spanish.

When Brown visited Frediani in Italy, she learned first-hand the sometimes stark similarities between the Spanish and Italian languages, she said.

“At first I didn't know anything, then I understood a lot because Spanish and Italian are both Latin-based, so their conjugations and things are similar,” Brown said.

Regarding Brown's interest in pursuing a career in business, she said she was inspired by her mother, Linda Brown, the proprietor of Homerun Graphics in Bullskin.

“I'm 10 years in with this business, so she has seen that grow,” Linda Brown said.

Having never traveled out of the country, Linda Brown was excited that her daughter had the chance to go, she said.

“I'm very excited for her and naturally, as a mom, I'm a little nervous,” said Linda Brown, adding that Amber's family gathered recently to see her off.

Amber Brown and the other St. Vincent College students participating in the program, including Morgan Zider, a junior psychology major from Mt. Pleasant Township who since May has taken part in a psychology/education internship in Dublin, Ireland, are scheduled to return this month.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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