HAMPSTEAD — Alissa McKechnie, 22, is leaving soon to spend a year in China working as an intern testing new toys for Hasbro.
The East Hampstead native is a senior at the University of Rhode Island, majoring in mechanical engineering and Mandarin Chinese. McKechnie is one of 20 students in the federally funded URI Chinese Language Flagship Program.
"We're required to do a year abroad with an internship," she said. "Hasbro has been trying to create a link with the (school) and so I sent in my resume and they picked me."
McKechnie said she's leaving Aug. 12 and will spend six months studying engineering and Chinese at Zhe Jiang University and then another six months in China as a paid intern working for the Rhode Island-based toy company.
At Hasbro, McKechnie will take a toy concept and then follow it all the way through development, until it is ready to be sold at a toy store.
"It's going to be with the Nerf division, so I'm working on Nerf Super Soakers, mostly the Blasters," she said. "I get to shoot darts and shoot squirt guns all day. It's really great."
She has been to China before — for a summer-long program through URI to improve her language skills. After studying Chinese for four years, McKechnie hopes she is prepared to navigate through her classes and her job.
"I'm certainly hoping to come back from China very close to, if not totally, fluent," she said. "Being immersed in the language is definitely an easier way to learn it and keep it in your head."
But she said taking engineering classes in Mandarin Chinese will still be tough.
"I've gotten a grasp on the grammar, but learning the technical words is going to be a challenge," she said. "I've been told that all of the professors and students there are very helpful. When you have a class spoken entirely in Mandarin, you can have a friend who will whisper a brief translation to you if needed."
One of McKechnie's friends, Elena Dempsey, an international business student, will also be working for Hasbro and have summer internships in Pawtucket, R.I., this summer.
"I'm learning the basics this summer so I'm not completely clueless when I get to China," McKechnie said.
She hopes the experience at Hasbro will help with her future career.
"I'm loving Hasbro," she said. "I'm hoping that maybe after being one of very few who were in China for them, that that will give me a leg up in the company. And I hope that I get to use Chinese wherever I do land after graduation."
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