International Alumna Turns Childhood Dreams Into Reality as a TV Anchor

Currently a TV Anchor at BBS in Bhutan, Choni reflects on the power of taking a leap of faith and the transformative connections she made through her time at Eastern University.

It is commonly stated that opportunity often comes knocking at your door when you least expect it.  For Eastern alumna Choni Selden ‘11, this statement certainly held its truth. 

When televisions were first introduced to her home country of Bhutan in 1999, Choni knew she had found her calling. She sat in front of the flickering screen watching news anchors tell stories with stars in her eyes, memorizing their signature lines to recite them in the mirror later on. 

“They were like movie stars to me,” she reflects. “The moment the news came on, I was captivated by their charisma, watching and daydreaming about my own future.” 

Little did she know that her broadcast dream would become reality sooner than she thought. At the age of 18, her passion for journalism shined through her youthful appearance when she was offered a position as a part-time newsreader for Bhutan Broadcasting Services (BBS). Though her colleagues all had college degrees, she fit right in due to her love for her work and determination to be successful in the field. 

After months of training, Choni went on air to read the Morning News and became the youngest newsreader in the history of BBS. However, she still dreamed of studying the journalism industry in depth at a real university, an ambition she sadly could not afford. 

One fateful day, her father, a tour guide in Bhutan, asked for her help with a tour. Dutifully, Choni joined him in guiding a group from Philadelphia through the most significant landmark in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest (‘Taktshang”). After picking up one of the group members from the airport, Mr. James Zug, Choni began sharing how she came to be a young newsreader and her dreams of earning a college degree in journalism.

They quickly connected over her story, which Mr. Zug shared with the rest of the tour group, including his wife Debbie, later that day. Choni continued to connect with the Zugs and the rest of the group throughout their trip, forming a relationship that, at the time, she did not know would be so impactful in her life.

A few months after the Zugs returned to the United States, Choni got an email from them saying that the whole group decided to join together and pay for her to attend college in the United States. “We all thought she was wonderful,” shares Debbie Zug. “We wanted to help her get the education she wanted and deserved.” Mr. and Mrs. Zug made some calls and helped Choni find a university that would offer her opportunities to help accomplish her dreams. They decided on Eastern University. 

“Meeting the Zugs has been the turning point of my life,” shares Choni. “In addition to sponsoring me, they helped me complete my college application, apply for a visa, and became my family in the States.”

As the only Buddhist student at the time on a Christian campus, Choni worried she might not fit in, but that was far from the case. “I met many Christians who were living a life that embodies all the goodness the Bible beckons,” says Choni on her time at Eastern. “They welcomed the only Buddhist girl on campus and made me feel valued. Eastern should be very proud of the inclusiveness they have fostered in their community.”

Eastern’s values still resonate with Choni in her current role as TV Anchor at BBC. “My job as a news anchor requires me to serve with unbiased reporting. Eastern’s values of Faith, Reason, and Justice definitely help me with this.” Since BBS is the only broadcast station in Bhutan, Choni’s voice holds a lot of potential to influence national discourse. “I have used my platform to be the voice for women’s mental health, children, and conscious parenting.”

“My time at Eastern widened my horizons and understanding of the world. I read the Bible for the first time and even took a class on Islam… all at the same University,” Choni adds. “And even though Chapel wasn’t mandatory, I often found myself attending because I enjoyed the energy. I think that speaks volumes about the values of Eastern.”

The friends Choni made on campus are like family today. Her freshman-year roommate, Kat, attended her wedding; Yera, a fellow international student introduced her to Korean cuisine and immediately became great support to each other; and a close friend, Megan, showed her how two people from different faiths could build a strong bond. “I still think about the time all of my friends came together to celebrate the Bhutanese New Year with me. A day I will never forget.” 

She built relationships with many of her professors, which profoundly shaped her college experience. “I have never been monitored and guided by such a passionate group of people who were always willing to put students first,” she says. “They were more than just educators. Throughout my four years, I never once had an indifferent professor.”

Looking back, it took one day, one guided tour to Taktshang, to transform the trajectory of Choni’s life. Today, Choni and the Zug family, her former sponsors, are as close as ever –she even took the name “Zug” as her screen name to show how much of an inspiration they are to her. They showed her a level of kindness that she didn’t know existed in the world.

“Eastern University gave me a voice,” she shares – a gift crucial to the influential position she is in today as a source of information for her country. “Eastern convinced me that I mattered and have the capability to form my own opinions and thoughts. This is the best thing I picked up from my time in the United States.”