When Chris Belfoure graduates from West Virginia University on May 16, he won’t have to worry about finding a job in the United States because he already has one—in China.
Chris will be a professional English trainer at EMC Worldwide in Shanghai, China, a company that develops software technology. While there, he will teach a class to help people better develop their business strategies and communication skills when working with Western companies.
Click below hear Chris discuss WVU's Chinese program, complete with "Let's Go Mountaineers!" in Chinese:
[ Download as MP3 File ]
“I want to be a small part of the bridge linking two large countries,” Chris says. “I hope I can diminish the misunderstandings between them.”
June marks Chris’ move to China, but he doesn’t go into the situation blindly. He has studied abroad on cultural trips to the area with WVU’s Chinese Department as well as worked for Zondy Cyber Group, an international business company, serving as an affiliate with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Chris leaves WVU with a bachelor’s degree in history from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. But, using his knowledge of the past isn’t a requirement of his new job. During his junior year at WVU, Chris began to take classes in Chinese, and is now fluent and holds a minor in the language—a major factor of his employment with EMC.
He can also speak French and Italian, and that knack for learning languages seems to run in Chris’s family.
Click below to hear Chris discuss where he got his knack for languages:
[ Download as MP3 File ]
“By the end of my grandmother’s life she was fluent in seven different languages,” Chris explains. “She was from Poland, and in the outbreak of WWII she was placed in an internment camp. The only reason she was able to survive is because she was useful to the Nazis. She was fluent in Hebrew, German, Polish – I guess her passion for languages rubbed off on me.”
While French and Italian are languages Chris learned from a young age, he explains Chinese was much more of a challenge.
“It was perplexing when I walked into the class and we were learning the different tones of Chinese,” Chris says. “I’m not reserved, not shy. When I didn’t feel comfortable participating in class it made me question my own capability.”
Becoming more relaxed with the Chinese language is something Chris attributes to Dr. Hannah Lin and “Teacher Zhang” of the class.
“She was able to draw a similarity,” Chris says. “She was from China and when she came to the U.S. had difficulty adapting to our language. English and Chinese are two alien languages with no similarities whatsoever. By seeing her struggle and overcome it, I knew I was the kind of person who could do the same.
“If I hadn’t had the conversation with my professor at WVU, I may have dropped the class and wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Chris stresses the importance of communicating with professors and developing a good student-professor relationship in all aspects of college life.
“They aren’t in place to beat you up,” Chris says. “They aren’t in place just to give you an ‘A’ or fail you. Professors are in place to develop you as a person. People who have been around are better at assessing things and can give you invaluable knowledge.”
A native of Essex, Conn., Chris has made WVU somewhat of a home away from home.
“Everything in life is a transition,” Chris adds. “I like challenges. I like to try new things and after moving to Morgantown on my own in 2005, I haven’t left here. People go home during the summer, and I’ve stayed.”
Chris hopes to work for EMC Worldwide anywhere from five to 10 years, but he eventually wants to go to law school, as his ideal job is to be a lawyer or to become a diplomat.
“We live in such a big country,” Chris says. “There’s so much to see. That’s the best thing about diplomacy. By going after Chinese, I’ve blended this kind of East-West philosophy about life.”
Advice Chris offers to any new grad is not to limit potential through technology, always create new goals and do everything possible while in school to meet them:
“Don’t watch too much TV and don’t get on Facebook too much. You have to remember to keep evolving as a person and learn how to develop yourself in different ways.
“Sit in the front row of class. Don’t be afraid to participate or speak your mind. If you are afraid to take a class because you don’t know what it is, that should be all the more reason to sign up for it on MIX. You’re only doing yourself a disservice by limiting your potential.”
By Corida Lucas
For the WVU Alumni Association
CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Alumni Association
Follow @wvutoday on Twitter.