President Barack Obama listens as Chinese President Hu Jintao speaks during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House Jan. 19, 2011, in Washington, D.C. A Congressional Black Caucus Foundation study-abroad program allows black students to travel to and study in China.  
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Few African Americans will ever get the chance to visit China—a country that’s modernizing at a dynamic pace and becoming a global center for technology and commerce. So Kamari Wright and Rachel John Kazungu jumped on an opportunity.

They applied for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Emerging Leaders: U.S.-China Study Abroad Program and began their journey.

Wright, a computer science and engineering student at Ohio State University, said that he envisioned small cities with traditionally designed buildings. But he was surprised by what he saw. “They have large, modern cities,” said Wright, who returned home with new ideas about designing contemporary, high-tech buildings.

Wright and Kazungu were part of a group of 19 students in the program’s 2014 delegation. They recalled encountering Chinese people who were curious about them.


“They were curious about our skin color and hair—but in a good way. They approached us with open minds and wanted to take pictures with us,” Wright said. “I felt a sense of pride as an African American there, like I was valued—not the hostility that we often experience here in America.”

Kazungu, a finance major at Alabama State University, explained, “They looked at us as being black in a different way [than we’re viewed in America]. They wanted to take pictures with us and connect. I was like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t happen in America.’”


In addition to touring cultural sites, like the Great Wall of China, and interacting with people, the program also focuses on career growth.

“This was one of the main reasons I applied,” said Kazungu, who’s pursuing a career in international business and hopes to work one day for the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. So she went to China with lots of questions about how the country was able to develop so rapidly.


Through the program’s educational component, Kazungu learned about the Chinese approach to business negotiations. And Wright attended lectures about energy efficiency and visited one of China’s leading energy companies.

The CBCF is now accepting applications through April 30 for this summer’s China study program. STEM students (those studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics) would travel in late June, while business and trade majors would visit China in early July.


“This is an exciting time for the CBCF as we expand our global initiatives through the China study-abroad program,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and CEO of the CBCF. “We believe building career and educational opportunities abroad is critical in an era of increasing globalization.”

Indeed, the opportunity to network with potential future Chinese business partners was a benefit Kazungu highlighted. “Globalization now makes the world more like a village,” she said. “There are many white Americans, but few African Americans, abroad. For African Americans to compete globally, we have to travel and network.”