Inspire: Allison Hunt – Bridging the gap between conflicting cultures

By Janelle Davis

Allison Hunt has always had a passion for experiencing different cultures and languages. In 11th grade she studied abroad in France for a year as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange and truly enjoyed getting out of her comfort zone. The experience sparked her love of learning about different cultures and languages.

Allison, who is from Baldwinsville, was inspired to study abroad again in China, which happened to be virtual because of the pandemic. She enjoyed learning about the differences between Chinese culture from her own.

It was really cool to learn about the different philosophers and how the [Chinese] government works, and how the beliefs and ideologies work there versus here,” she said. Allison believes it’s important to take the time to understand the different cultures and different aspects of society that we see as “normal,” so we can approach solutions with more of an open mind.

Allison will be entering her junior year at Minerva University where she studies political science and government. Based in San Francisco Minerva has a global rotation, so students from more than 60 different countries study abroad in a different location each semester. So far, she has studied in Seoul, South Korea, Taipei, Taiwan, and Hyderabad, India. In the fall, she will study in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Fluent in both French and Chinese, she is now working on learning additional languages and is the president of Minerva University’s Language Club, a student initiative called Langs.

Known for its global, immersive, and purposeful approach to higher education, Minerva was named the most innovative university in the world for the second consecutive year, according to World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI).

The way Minerva approaches education is a lot different than other universities. All of our classes are online and based on the science of learning,” she said. “The focus is on the study of how people learn best. All of our classes are discussion based. We gain a lot of value from the lectures, discussions, taking notes, and asking questions rather than information crammed by professors. They want to equip us with tools that will be useful for our future.”

Last year Allison was accepted as a delegate at a pair of international summits scheduled for this summer: the China-America Student Conference (CHASC) and the Korea-America Student Conference (KASC).

These student conferences are for the next generation of leaders,” Barb Hunt said of her daughter’s involvement in these programs. “Allison would be a great catalyst to help improve relations between China and America. A program like the International Student Conference is a really great opportunity for her to be able to start.”

Both conferences are a two-week-long academic and cultural exchange program that bring together an equal number of students who represent the United States and China and Korea for off-the-record discussions of the future of the bilateral relationship.

The program is student-run and student-led, allowing for full and frank conversations between emerging young leaders from both countries. Allison recently wrapped up the China-America Conference and couldn’t say enough about her positive experience. 

We had a very diverse pool of students. For example there was a student from Hong Kong, we had a Malaysian-Chinese student who grew up in the U.S, we had students from the U.S. whose parents are from Taiwan, so it was really cool to get such differing opinions on international relations,” she said. “There was a very wide range of perspectives. And me, having lived in Taiwan as a foreigner, the conversations were very enlightening.”

The CHASC focused on all aspects of the U.S. and China relations. Allison and the other students met with the Asia group, a business advisory firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. They also met the chief economist of Bloomberg economics to learn about international companies and governments that use their software. 

Allison engaged with The China Project to learn more about the role of journalism in U.S. and China relations. “We talked about how certain words that we use in stories and headlines affect people’s view of the U.S.-China Relations and international relations in general,” she explained.

They visited the Utah Chinese Dual Language Immersion Program where they learned how students from a very young age have been learning Chinese. “I think we need more of that. Some of the funding for Chinese programs have been cut due to the state of the relations. But we need more language learning to enhance cultural understanding. It would help to decrease the language and cultural barrier between us,” she said.

In addition to making lifelong friends through the CHASC, Allison has been elected as American chair for the next year’s conference.

I had a really great time at the conference. I learned a lot and it was really impactful,” she said. “I can’t wait to help start planning next year’s conference and give others this great opportunity.”

Allison is currently experiencing the Korea-America Student Conference. Having already studied in Korea and understanding the Korean education system, and the problems facing North Korean Defectors, she was very excited for this experience.

These conferences, she said, are important because they are combining young leaders from different countries with different cultures and languages.

As for Hunt’s future plans, already having spent a semester in Korea, she plans to return someday after graduation. She is interested in discussing education at the KASC and emphasizes her belief that different countries should try to understand each other and our different systems. 

I think that is what’s cool about these conferences. I’m becoming so much more aware of different career paths and what is important for international relations. It’s a really good professional experience talking to different people in the field,” she shared. “I hope to be a leader and promote cross-cultural dialogue so that we can come from a point of understanding with each other to foster tangible change. Youth is the future, and I will work tirelessly to bring the world closer and fight for the rights of everyone, everywhere.”