Alumni Alumni in the News

October 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Linguistics Alum Goes From Bobcat to Diplomat

Linguistics alum Victoria Augustine contributes much of her success to her time and experiences at OHIO. Shown here in Gordy Hall under international flags.

Linguistics alum Victoria Augustine contributes much of her success to her time and experiences at OHIO.

By Dr. Liang Tao
Associate Professor of Linguistics and Chinese Language Program Coordinator

After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ohio University, alum Victoria Augustine moved a bit further from Athens than the average student (nearly 8,000 miles further), and she hasn’t stopped traveling since.

Augustine earned an M.A. in Linguistics from the College of Arts & Sciences and a bachelor’s in journalism from OHIO’s Scripps College of Communication.

“Prior to my arrival at OHIO University, I didn’t really know the world existed outside Ohio’s state lines. I was raised in a pretty meager, single-parent household, so I’d never been on an airplane and would never have thought about seeking a career in international affairs,” says Augustine, who planned to work as a journalist. “When I was accepted into Scripps, I thought life couldn’t get any better. It was one of the top journalism schools in the country and was in-state tuition, so I was able to work my way through school.”

Little did she know that a chance to earn extra credit in an elective Linguistics course would change her journalism plans and send her from Athens to Asia.

Through the Ohio Program of Intensive English Conversation Partners Program, Augustine was paired with Lai Yan-chin, a first-year doctoral student who had recently arrived from Taiwan with his wife and two young children. An instant bond formed between Augustine and the whole Lai family, eventually altering her career path.

“My first plane trip was from Ohio to Taiwan with the Lais. That trip changed my entire worldview. I no longer had any interest in writing for my hometown newspaper when I could be out exploring the globe instead.” When Augustine returned to the States, she applied to OHIO’s Linguistics M.A. program and immediately signed up for Chinese language classes.

Victoria Augustine, top center, poses with the Lai Family, who played a pivotal role in influencing her career path.

Victoria Augustine, top center, poses with the Lai Family, who played a pivotal role in influencing her career path.

Teaching in China, Managing Fulbright Programs

With the solid theoretical foundation, language skills, and practical teaching experience gained in Athens, Augustine acclimated quite easily to life in Taiwan after graduation. She spent nearly five years teaching English at a university, where she also started an English newspaper, opened a restaurant, and taught in a leadership development program.

“Those were some of the best—and busiest—years of my life!” When she returned to the United States, she relocated to the Washington, D.C., area and found work at the U.S. Department of State. “Because of my Chinese language skills, I was hired into the East Asia branch of a bureau that focuses on educational exchanges. My portfolio included the entire Chinese-speaking region, plus a few southeast Asian countries.”

Augustine managed the Fulbright programs in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and more. The Fulbright Program is a U.S.-based scholarship program that exists in more than 150 countries around the world and offers Americans and international scholars an opportunity to study, conduct research and teach abroad. Although based in Washington, D.C., Augustine traveled regularly to countries throughout East Asia to meet with Fulbrighters and oversee the program.

Augustine, pictured seated right of the podium, has worked to help manage the Fulbright Programs in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to name a few.

Augustine, pictured seated right of the podium, has worked to help manage the Fulbright Programs in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to name a few.

Meeting Bobcats All Over the World

More than once, this Bobcat-turned-diplomat found herself in the far corners of the world—chatting with fellow Bobcats.

“During my very first trip to Indonesia, I had a meeting with the president of one of the country’s leading universities. I noticed a green hat with a paw sitting on a shelf behind his desk, so I inquired. Turns out, he visited Ohio University as part of a university educators exchange and had nothing but lovely memories of the campus and people.”

In Timor-Leste, a feisty young woman working with the United Nations on international development projects was another Bobcat. She was a Fulbrighter who received her M.A. from OHIO and was helping to ensure success for Asia’s newest democracy.

In Malaysia and Taiwan, Augustine met Bobcats who were teaching English through the Fulbright program.

“There’s a common bond among people who’ve spent time in southeast Ohio—a warmth and authenticity. Perhaps that’s why Ohio is called ‘the Heartland.’ I’m proud to be a Bobcat and proud to be an Ohioan.”

One Comment

  1. Matthew Augustine says:

    So very proud of your accomplishments and what a great reflection on your school !

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