Discovering a World of Opportunity

May 3, 2016

cal_website_mikedrew.jpgROTC cadet Mike Drew has a busy week ahead of him. He commissions as an officer May 6, graduates with a B.A. in Chinese May 8, and leaves for China May 12 for one last study abroad.

After graduating among the top of his class with a 3.95 GPA, Drew will travel to Beijing, China, to study Asian geography, contemporary Chinese stories, and Chinese public debate for two months. This will be his second study abroad. His first took him to Nanjing, China, between his freshman and sophomore years after completing only one Chinese course at MSU – Elementary Chinese.

“That was exciting going to China with only one year of Chinese under my belt,” said Drew, who wasn’t always so eager to step outside his comfort zone. 

Growing up in Manistee, Michigan, Drew’s high school graduating class only had 13 students.

“Coming from a small northern Michigan town, the big thing for me to overcome was stepping out of my comfort zone,” he said. “My freshman year, I was a little more reserved. I would head straight to class then straight back to my dorm. It took a year for me to open up and try new things and really go out of my way to meet new people.

“If I could do it over, I would put myself out there more and seek out those opportunities to grow as a person. College is more than just your academic classes. It’s figuring out who you are, figuring out what you want to do in your life, what you find enjoyable, but it’s also taking risks to expose yourself to new things.”

Gaining Confidence Through ROTC

ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) helped give Drew the confidence to try new things.

“ROTC is the best support system I have ever been a part of,” he said. “We are all there for the same reason. We all want to see each other succeed. No one is there to put you down. We’re there to help each other grow, to learn from each other. That really helped me my sophomore year when I started to form a close nucleus of friends within ROTC.”

Drew also sought out opportunities within his major and was involved with the Chinese Conversation Club, serving as its vice president this past year.

“I am so happy I chose to come to MSU. I have been exposed to a wider variety of cultures and ethnicities than I could have ever imagined coming in,” he said. “MSU also has a large international student presence and specifically Chinese students, so I really haven’t had any problem seeking out help on campus to help me with my studies.”

Using Chinese Language Skills

Drew already has had the opportunity to use his Chinese language skills in a professional capacity. He served as a Chinese translator in a legal dispute involving a Chinese national citizen in his hometown.

“My mom’s friend worked for the courthouse and knew I was studying Chinese. She called and asked if I would be a Chinese legal translator for this case,” Drew said. “It was awesome. It was probably one of the more fulfilling experiences I have had with my Chinese abilities.

“When I tell people I am a Chinese major, they say that is awesome, but ask what I’m going to do with it. It is those kinds of opportunities that people don’t realize that are out there. And not only legal or court translations, there’s so many positions that people don’t think of that involve the ability to speak a foreign language, a critical foreign language especially.”

Becoming a Leader

This past semester, Drew served as the Cadet Wing Commander for the Air Force ROTC Detachment on MSU’s campus and led the more than 80 cadets in the cadet wing, which also includes students from Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University.

“ROTC provides you with leadership opportunities that you don’t get any where else on campus,” he said. “The whole point of ROTC is to develop leaders for the Air Force, and in ROTC, as you progress to an upperclassman, you are expected to take on more leadership roles within the detachment and mentor the younger cadets. This opportunity to lead is an invaluable experience.”

Drew also gained leadership and mentorship skills by serving as a peer mentor in the College of Arts & Letters.

“That was a great opportunity to work with incoming freshmen in the College of Arts & Letters,” he said. “It was rejuvenating and maybe a little sentimental too, going back to freshman year and helping them with those problems that I had too. I’m glad that I could help make their transition to college a little bit easier and just be there for them. I know as a freshman it’s sometimes overwhelming, but when the College of Arts & Letters has programs like this set up, it makes transition so much smoother.”

After Drew finishes his last study abroad, he will go to Texas for six months for Air Force training. He doesn’t know where he will end up after that, but would like to make the Air Force his career and hopes to some day work for an Embassy or the state department. 

“In the Air Force, I could end up any where. And that is the beauty of it – the opportunity to travel,” he said. “I am not sure where exactly I would like to end up, but I know I’d like to travel the world.”