Student Spotlight: Victoria BienAime

| Fri, 04/24/20
FSU senior Victoria BienAime, who speaks four languages including Chinese, plans to pursue graduate school in China.

Victoria BienAime is a fourth-year student in the Florida State University Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. BienAime, set to graduate in May, is majoring in Chinese with a concentration in business and was awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in 2019, which allowed her to study in China last year.

Where are you from? What is your anticipated date of graduation?

I am from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and I am graduating this spring.

What brought you to FSU?

I knew Florida State University had one of the best programs for international study, and the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement allowed me to come and study here.

What inspired you to choose your major? How do you plan to utilize it?

When I was small, a family friend encouraged me to explore many different languages and cultures, and that sparked an interest in me. She encouraged me to embrace cultural differences and to learn from cultures different from my own, and that inspired me to pursue a degree in a foreign language. I also talked to the coordinator and adviser of the Chinese department here at FSU, Dr. Aaron Lan, who informed me about the option to major in Chinese with a concentration in business and encouraged me to pursue it. I have always been fascinated by the Chinese language and culture, and I’ve also dreamed about doing international business — it’s the best of both worlds.

What on-campus resources have helped you achieve success?

The tutoring lab in the CARE building offers help for almost every subject, so whenever I’m having trouble, I know I can go to the lab for help. Another invaluable resource is the Office of National Fellowships. An adviser in that office informed me about the Gilman Scholarship program and the steps needed to apply. The scholarship itself is very competitive; more than 100,000 people apply and only 145 are awarded annually. To apply I had to make a student portal, submit my transcript, write a statement of purpose, write a community impact essay, and then submit all of the paperwork to a study abroad adviser and a financial aid adviser.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time in China? How has the knowledge you gained there helped you in your life here?

My biggest takeaway was to fully enjoy life and live in the moment. While I was there, I learned how to truly appreciate everything around me. It is easy to be consumed by social media and other distractions when you’re living in the U.S., but while I was in China I learned to put down my devices and enjoy the moment. I’m trying to keep that mindset now that I’m back.

What was a typical day like while you were abroad?

The director of the program planned what we did in terms of educational and extracurricular activities. We went sightseeing in Beijing at the Forbidden Palace, learned about and saw the Terracotta Warriors, and visited many museums. On days we didn’t have an excursion planned, I would visit the smoothie shop and go to class. After class, I would have lunch and study in the dorm’s common area or learn Tai chi with some of the other students. My friends and I would often walk to the heart of the city to learn more about Chinese culture and history or take the high-speed train to nearby cities to try different types of food and go shopping.

What should people know about studying a foreign language? What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking of pursuing a second language?

People shouldn't be afraid of learning another language. Chinese is my fourth language (I speak English, Creole, Spanish and Chinese) and, in my experience, after learning a second language, it is much easier to learn others. If you’re learning a new language, study or review each day because you will lose what you learn as soon as you stop practicing. I encourage anyone to learn a second language because, although it’s time consuming, it does open a lot of doors for you — both personally and professionally. Knowing multiple languages increases the number of people you can communicate with, which is helpful in your personal life and also makes you a stand-out candidate for any job.

What do you like to do when you’re not studying?

I like to watch nature and animal documentaries and I sometimes go on nature walks with friends.

Even though you might miss FSU, what are you looking forward to once you graduate?

While I was in China, I was able to get in touch with an academic adviser who informed me about a fully-funded opportunity for graduate school in China. This coming August, I will leave for China for two and-a-half years to get my master’s in international business at Tianjin Foreign Studies University. I'm really looking forward to it!

What advice do you have for your fellow students?

I strongly recommend asking for help if you need it and using the resources that FSU provides. The faculty and staff are more than willing to help you achieve academic success.