A massive tent on the Drillfield yesterday housed booths advertising countless education abroad opportunities for Virginia Tech students.
One program standing out in the crowd was the Chinese Language Institute, or CLI. A 2009 Tech alumnus, Robert Fried, founded the program. It has quickly grown to become one of the top study abroad companies in China.
Fried decided to create the program after studying abroad in China himself. The experience, which he described as invaluable, was something he wanted to share with other students. He decided to start his own company.
“Two months before graduation, I started CLI while I was still housed up in my dorm room. It has been four years (since then), and we have just about doubled every year since we started. This year alone we had 60 (Tech) students and faculty come to China,” Fried said.
Earlier this year, the CLI welcomed it's hundredth Hokie to China. According to the company, strategic partnerships with the Pamplin College of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences have made their rapid growth possible.
Fried's brother spent four years in China and Fried had wanted to go and visit him during college.
“After spending two days there I was convinced I wanted to spend a lot of time in China. The country has grown a lot in the past 20 years and now is a perfect time to start getting involved,” he said.
But Fried had struggled when trying to get to his brother. As an undergrad, Fried had trouble finding any suitable programs in China that provided a home stay. This problem became a primary motivation for starting the company.
“I wanted to come up with a solution. Since graduation in May of 2009, I have been working with departments all across campus helping to create in-house China programs,” Fried said.
Since it's inception in March 2009, the CLI has hosted 340 students from 45 universities worldwide, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Oxford. It has also counted Israeli diplomats and over 40 Peace Corps volunteers among its clients.
In January 2011, the CLI expanded into its own five-story learning center capable of housing 75 students and 20 full-time Mandarin instructors at any given time.
“Right now we are focused on building our semester abroad program. We actually have a Tech professor from the history department who will spending the entire Spring 2013 semester at CLI in China teaching history courses,” Fried said.
Fried encourages students to study abroad if they are on the fence about going.
“We live in a globalized world and it is absolutely necessary to see it and to actually interact with the world,” Fried said. “China has become influential in every sphere of global affairsm, so regardless of a student’s discipline, China should be one of their top choices for studying abroad.”
For students interested in the CLI, no prior experience with speaking Chinese is required and there are options for every season of the year.
The CLI is it's own entity, a separate program that has a partnership with Tech.