The University of Iowa

UI study abroad student meets First Lady in China

March 21st, 2014

By Alonzo Weston, St. Joseph News-Press

Elise Prendergast and a young Chinese boy

Elise Prendergast, at left, works with children in China. She is to meet with the first lady today

A former St. Joseph student was to meet with first lady Michelle Obama today — in China.

Actually, since there’s a 13-hour time difference between here and China, Elise Prendergast met with the first lady at 8 p.m. Friday, which is 9 a.m. China time. No matter the time or the place, the Central High School graduate and current University of Iowa junior is both excited and surprised to meet Mrs. Obama.

“I had no idea she was coming,” Ms. Prendergast said. “I was very surprised that she would be in China, seeing as how there is a lot of international turmoil going on right now.”

Her interest in Chinese culture and world history was the reason Ms. Prendergast went to study abroad at Peking University.

She will be one in a randomly selected group of about 100 American and Chinese students who were meet with Michelle Obama. Ms. Prendergast said a lot of her friends weren’t picked to attend he event.

“I think they thought that since I was an American student, and interested in Chinese history and culture, and also interested in international relations, that I would be a good candidate,” she said.

Ms. Prendergast saw President Obama when he came to the University of Iowa campus a couple of years ago.

She isn’t sure what the meeting with Michelle Obama will be about, but thought it might have something to do with international relations. If she has the chance, Ms. Prendergast said she would ask the first lady what she thought about the future of the relationship between China and the United States.

“I want to know what she thinks for Chinese-American relations and how it will turn out, and how Americans can take part,” she said.

Ms. Prendergast said she plans to stay in China for a while and learn the language. She wants to learn the language better and possibly go to graduate school there.

“I’m hoping I get to the point where I can actually partake in dialogue and go to grad school and write a book, or something of that nature,” she said.