Chinese Alumni Story - Cassia Waligora

Cassia Waligora ’21

Cassia was awarded the prestigious Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship as she attends the M.A. program in Asian Studies at Georgetown University towards a position in the United States Foreign Service as a U.S. Diplomat in 2023. Read more-->

Cassia Waligora 21 Q1: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

A1: My name is Cassia Waligora, and I am double majoring in International Relations and Chinese at Wheaton! I lived in China (Kunming, Yunnan) for 14 years before moving to Virginia for high school. Even though my family currently lives in South Korea, I still consider Kunming my home. When I’m not studying or cooking with my roommates, I enjoy meeting new people, trying new foods, and traveling to new places!

Q2: What brought you to studying Chinese?

A2: When I lived in China, I took Chinese language classes at my international school and regularly conversed with Chinese people. But when I moved to the States, my high school did not offer Chinese. As a result, I lost most of the language during those 4 years since I no longer had a place to practice and speak it. When I came to Wheaton and saw that they offered Chinese, I knew it was a perfect opportunity for me to re-learn the language. Eventually I added it on as a major, and I was able to spend the fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Shanghai, China.

Q3: What is your career plan, and how may your proficiency in Chinese play a role in it?

A3: I want to return to China one day to live and work, and currently I am pursuing a career with the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service. I love living abroad and experiencing new countries and cultures, and the summer after my sophomore year I had the incredible opportunity to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. While there, I was able to use some of my Chinese skills, and the overall experience solidified my interest in becoming a diplomat. China is an important country to focus on especially in this current political climate, and I hope to serve as a bridge between China and the U.S. as someone who has ties to both countries.

Q4: What do/did you enjoy the most in the Chinese program at Wheaton?

A4: Definitely the professors. Even though Wheaton’s Chinese program is small, the professors and students are one big, happy family. Many of the students I met in my freshman year Chinese classes have continued on with me throughout the years, and it makes each class entertaining as we all laugh and struggle together. I have been invited to my Chinese professors’ houses numerous times with my class to eat and make food (ex. dumplings and tangyuan), which have been some of my favorite memories during my time at Wheaton.

Q5: Could you give some advice to future Chinese majors?

A5: Chinese is a very difficult language, and sometimes I wonder why I continued to pursue learning it when I could have chosen an easier language to focus on. However, China has the largest population on Earth, and chances are you will meet many Chinese people during your lifetime. It is a great feeling when you can talk to someone in their native language (even if you may stumble with some words). By studying and practicing a little Chinese each day, I promise that it will get easier over time. Also be sure to make Chinese friends. It helps me the most when I talk to native Chinese speakers who push me to improve my vocabulary and correct my mistakes. Overall, Chinese is a language that presents many opportunities to those who are patient enough to learn it. Jiayou!