Student Spotlight: Eden Wiggins


Eden announced her acceptance to UC San Diego. [Photo Credit: Eden Wiggins]

Through our mission of encouraging dialogue and diverse exchanges between the United States and China, CUSEF offers many opportunities for students who wish to engage with Chinese culture in a deeper way. Over the last few years there have been hundreds of university students that have taken advantage of the programs, courses, and events offered here at CUSEF, from immersion trips to Mandarin courses, and one such student we would like to introduce is Eden Wiggins!

In 2018, Eden attended the CUSEF sponsored trip to China with fellow students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). “This cultural immersion trip quickly became one of my most memorable life experiences,” said Eden, who has since continued her passion for learning about Chinese culture, even completing CUSEF’s Virtual Mandarin Course in the Spring of 2022!

While at Claflin University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, Eden studied Biology with a minor in Chemistry and Spanish with the goal of becoming an international lawyer. Her interest in language and studying cultures started early, and when Eden first heard about the opportunity to travel to China through her university provost, after an opportunity to study abroad at Beijing University of Chemical Technology fell through. But when Eden learned about the trip to China with CUSEF and jumped at the opportunity!

Eden was part of one of many African-American Student Groups that attended the trip to China with CUSEF. The trip was hosted in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus and civil society groups that are focused on advancing the black community in America. Overall, CUSEF has hosted trips to China for over 750 students, and the itinerary for these trips includes lectures from professors at Chinese universities regarding the U.S.-China relationship, lessons on China’s history, philosophy, culture, as well as Mandarin studies. The delegations also attended workshops to learn Chinese calligraphy and martial arts and visited historical sites like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

Eden and her friends learning Mandarin on a CUSEF trip in 2018 [Photo Credit: CUSEF]

For Eden, the best part of her trip was experiencing China’s hospitality, culture, and cuisine. “This trip was so valuable for my understanding of the Mandarin language, Chinese culture and government, and it unsheathed many cultural boundaries,” said Eden, who noted that her fondest memory of her trip was visiting the Great Wall of China. Not only was the trip educational, but it far exceeded her expectations. Not to mention, Eden said she was able to check off a major item on her bucket list!

Something Eden learned about China that surprised her was the concept of road space rationing, and the ways in which traffic flow in Beijing is regulated. This policy, instated in 2008, regulates which drivers are allowed on common road spaces based on the last four digits of this license plate. This rule, sometimes referred to as the “end-number license plate policy”, is put into place for certain events, holidays, and to reduce exhaust gas from cars in Beijing.

Traffic in Beijing [Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

The trip to China further inspired Eden to enroll in CUSEF’s Virtual Mandarin Course in the Spring of this year. She enrolled not only because she enjoys learning about Chinese culture, but she also loves to learn languages, stating that “taking language classes is one of my hobbies, and I aspire to become a polyglot.” According to Eden, the Mandarin course was very beneficial and rewarding, and described the instructors and class tutors as very interactive, patient, and engaging. Overall, Eden says she highly recommends the Mandarin Course for anyone interested in learning a new language, or for anyone that wants to experience Chinese culture and a new or more immersive way.

The trip to China, as well as the Spring Mandarin Course, were important stepping blocks in Eden’s professional and personal goals for the future. Eden intends to travel all over the world and hopes to become a Foreign Service Officer for the United States government, which requires fluency in widely spoken languages like Mandarin.

Eden on the Great Wall of China [Photo Credit: Eden Wiggins]

To pursue the next steps in her career, Eden is going to attend the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to study Latin American Studies this fall. She was selected to be a 2022 Competitive Edge fellow, which included a 6 week research program that began in August, and will continue until the start of classes this semester. Eden says she chose UCSD because of the small class sizes, strength of the Latin American studies program, and support that is offered to students. The school also has a wide range of language courses available and prepares students to take the United States Foreign Service Exam.

Eden has organized a fundraiser to raise money towards her graduate school studies as she begins classes at UCSD in the coming weeks. Regarding the fundraiser, Eden has stated the following:

“I have maintained and expressed a variety of interests in both academic and extracurricular activities. I am pleased to announce that I will be pursuing yet another one of my many interests. In the fall of 2022, I begin my journey to earn my Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of California, San Diego. Thankfully, I have received a Teaching Assistant position to teach in the UCSD Making of the Modern World Program which will enable me to attend the university tuition-free. I am using this platform to raise money for my move across the country to California. The proceeds of this fundraiser will be used to help me purchase furniture, pay bills, and get settled in San Diego.”

If you are interested in donating to help Eden during her time in graduate school, click on the link here to view her GoFundMe!

Overall, Eden says, “the work that CUSEF does is remarkable; through private funding and partnerships in the United States and China, the non-profit organization aims to nurture, promote, and generate dialogues between the US and Chinese citizens, including government officials and citizens of each other's respective nations.” Eden received a certificate of completion for her Mandarin studies, which was in conjunction with Beijing Foreign Studies University.

“Since my trip in 2018, I have continued to receive correspondence from the program director Wendy Tang, continue to engage with the organization, and experience their consistent effort and success in growing my love for China and the Mandarin language,” says Eden.

Thank you, Eden, for your active participation with CUSEF, and for your interest in learning more about China’s culture and language. We hope Eden’s journey and her passion for learning will help inspire other students who are interested in knowing more about Chinese culture, language, and the relationship between the U.S. and China to get involved with CUSEF for upcoming classes, trips, and events!

Eden and her friends visiting the Forbidden City on a CUSEF trip in 2018 [Photo Credit: CUSEF]