Bryce Heatherly (Major in Chinese '15)
When I first declared a major in Chinese Language and Culture, my main objective was to increase my fluency in modern Chinese so that I could study my first major (art history and archaeology) more effectively. Art historical studies often require a reading proficiency in languages other than English, so this was an important factor in my decision to declare a second major in Chinese.
Some advice I would give to other students with a similar focus on language abilities would be this: even classes in the Chinese department, such as literature classes, that do not require students to speak or read Chinese can be very useful for increasing language proficiency. For example, some of my favorite courses as a Chinese major were modern literature courses – because these courses challenged me to understand Chinese culture on a supra-linguistic level.
I think it is important to appreciate the range of courses available through the EALC department, some of which, such as Classical Chinese, are not offered in other universities. In my experience, one of the strongest aspects of the Chinese department is the willingness of professors to meet with students outside of the classroom. This kind of availability for questions and general concern for a student’s success definitely contributed to the quality of my experience as a Chinese major. One of my Chinese teachers, Liang Xia, even arranged for an introduction with a marketing company in Beijing, where I later completed an internship during the summer after my junior year.
After graduating with a major in Chinese, I was committed to honing my skills in written and spoken Chinese both by working in China and through additional study. Today, I believe that knowledge of Chinese culture and language skills will certainly expand the horizon of opportunities available to a student, both figuratively and geographically.
Keatley Pihl (Minor in Chinese '17, also summer 2015, Fudan Study abroad program)
Studying any second language is a valuable experience, as it gives you access to another culture in a way that you can’t quite get at just by reading about it or even visiting the place. Chinese is a particularly fascinating language to study in part because Chinese culture differs in so many ways from American culture. In class we don’t just memorize words and characters; I’ve learned about Chinese geography, food, holidays, and daily life, as well as more serious issues like pollution, overpopulation, and gender inequality. Studying Chinese has brought me close to a lot of friends I never would have met otherwise, and given me the opportunity to live in China for a summer and experience a new and very different part of the world. Because I spoke some Chinese, I was able to be a bit more than just another American tourist and actually chat with students, cab drivers, and restaurant owners and experience the culture on a deeper level that was both more meaningful and a lot more fun.
Students’ Reflections on the Fudan Study Abroad Program
Mohamed Gabir (Fall 2014, The Global MedPrep Scholars Program)
Before going to China, I had zero experience with both the language and culture. I wanted to explore a different part of the globe that I wasn’t familiar with and engage with people that I would not get the chance to interact with. As a result, I felt like a fish out of water when I arrived and did not understand anything that was happening around me. Luckily, I had great professors and language partners who were able to guide me throughout my time in China. In my opinion, Chinese is a very difficult language to learn, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning it thanks to my teachers’ enthusiasm for Chinese. In the span of four months, I went from a student that knew nothing to someone who could keep a decent conversation with the locals.
The Global MedPrep Scholars Program was an incredible experience. It provided me an opportunity to immerse myself in another culture and really explore the Chinese healthcare system. Fudan University also provided me with a platform to frame my study in Medical Anthropology alongside Fudan University students. After coming back from China, I believe that I have a clearer idea of how my career should progress. I strongly recommend this program to any student interested in broadening their perspective or want to get out of their comfort zone.
Clare Kim (Summer 2015, Fudan Study abroad program)
If someone asks me if I would participate in Shanghai summer language program again, I would shout out yes without hesitation because there are so many good reasons to give such a passionate response. First of all, this might sound very obvious, but you get to live in China, mingle with Chinese people, speak Chinese, eat Chinese food, hassle with Chinese traffic, and really soak yourself with Chinese culture. This is great because it honestly allows you to learn Chinese ten times faster than you do in the States. That explains why summer program is only maximum two months; students can learn as much content as they do in one year at Washu. You might worry then if the schedule of the program is not too overwhelming, but hold that thought. It is rather very relaxing and flexible because you get a lot of free time. It is true that you have a class every weekday from Monday to Friday and you are not excused from coming to class 10 minutes late. However, the class ends before noon and for the rest of the day, how the time is going to be spent is totally up to you. The workload is also doable; considering the fact that I went to China with the purpose of learning Chinese language, the amount of time dedicated to studying Chinese was fair. Apart from all the studying, you also get a huge opportunity to tour around the country. The first week of the program is purely dedicated to touring major cities in China. In my case, it was Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. Although the schedule is pretty tight and packed with sight-seeing, I would not complain because which tour package deal would include the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Terracotta Warriors, and Shanghai’s waitan all together? Apart from that, after the program started, we also went touring famous places close to Shanghai such as Suzhou once in every two weekends. Last but not least, you get to build valuable relationships with teachers and other classmates. This language program is pretty small-sized, and thus, allows you to really get to know other companions in an intimate level. It has been nearly five months since I got back from the trip, but whenever I see any of the friends from the summer program, I feel a jolt of joy and an urge to chit-chat in Chinese, reminiscing the happy memories we shared during summer. So, if you feel like you have not made very close friends in college, this program will be a very good chance for you to meet people who share similar interest in language with you and people who will definitely transform your summer into one of the most unforgettable delights ever.
Sun Park (Summer 2015, Fudan Study abroad program)
I have been learning Chinese for a few years, and always wanted to study abroad in China to learn not only authentic Chinese, but also to understand the culture. The WU Shanghai program gave me the opportunity to pursue my interests. Attending the Shanghai program was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The 8-week intensive program definitely helped my Chinese improve. Because I was placed in an environment where we could only communicate in Chinese, the amount of practice I got was significantly different to what I got in classes at WashU. Inside and outside of class, I constantly needed to only speak and think in Chinese, and as the weeks passed, I sometimes could not even think of words in English! Also, meeting with my one-on-one language partner everyday helped me to practice what I learned in class, fix mistakes, and even learn daily phrases and slang words. I was able to learn the Chinese language that can not really be learned in a classroom setting.
The program also provided me with a background that improved my understanding of the people and the country. I was able to let my foreign self absorb into the culture. Just riding a bike to class along with the other Chinese students, ordering food at a local restaurant, visiting my one-on-one language partner’s dorm, talking to a cab driver who used a dialect, talking to strangers to prepare for my class presentation, all summed up to a great, worthy experience . Although the time was relatively short, I was able to fully understand what country China was, and how to live a Chinese life.