Three and a half years ago, when I decided to start learning Chinese, I was plagued by countless doubts: Are you crazy? Is this a rational choice? Will it disrupt your academic plan and career goals? At the time, I did not have any answers to these questions. I now know that choosing to study Chinese was the best decision I could have made in my twenty years.
Isabelle Jean Szczerbinski2018-03-29
My journey began six years ago, at age five. I visited a new Chinese restaurant with my parents and I was mesmerized by the chef who was tossing fresh noodles around the open kitchen. He smiled at me, so I started to speak to him. I tried to ask him questions about how he was able to take a large ball of dough and turn it into fine noodles by pulling and stretching and throwing. He answered, but I could not understand him. The owner explained that he had just arrived from China and did not yet understand English.
I have been studying the language and culture of China for almost two years now, beginning in sixth grade. I never expected to learn how to speak and write in Chinese, but this experience has been very beneficial to my life. I have gained so much from taking Chinese with my teacher, Ms. Ma, and from being a part of my school's Chinese club. Some wonderful experiences that I have had include completing classwork, playing games, enjoying fun afterschool activities, and greeting guests that have come to our club and class.
Last July my wife, Teresa, taught in China for 2 weeks at Shaanxi Normal University (SNNU) in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. Having learned about this opportunity from her friend, Victoria, Teresa was excited not only to explore China, but for the opportunity to teach Chinese students in such a prestigious university. In sharing her SNNU teaching experiences with Teresa, Victoria described how her husband, who accompanied her in the prior year, found the experience ‘life changing’.
As a second grader, I had no idea how great the impact of studying Chinese language and culture would be on my life today. What began as pure academic study, morphed into rich cultural immersion. Since I began studying Mandarin, I have had many opportunities afforded to me courtesy of the Confucius Institute on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas.
I was born into poverty, but I was given an opportunity to study at a prestigious high school in Houston. Bellaire High School Magnet Program gave me the means to escape poverty. My local high school would have done little to further my education. Upon acceptance, I had to choose a language to study. The language that appealed most to me was Mandarin Chinese with Dr. Sara Tsai. I saw this as a chance for educational nourishment and to transcend poverty.
Amelia AiYan Engstrom2018-03-29
I was born in Fuling, China. Chinese was the only language I knew. Twelve months after I was born, I was adopted by two Americans who spoke a language that was foreign. They brought me back to America where their language became familiar to me.
Eric L. Einspruch2018-03-29
My interest in Chinese culture began in my early teenage years when I first saw the 1970s television series Kung Fu, in which a Shaolin monk wanders the wild west of the United States in the mid-1800s in search of his half-brother fighting for justice. At this time, I was already becoming an outdoor-oriented person who enjoyed time in the mountains and wandering off the beaten path. I was particularly captivated by the allegories of Kung Fu, told in flashback, that drew life lessons from nature. I began reading the writings of Lao Tzu, Chaung Tzu, and Confucius and I resonated with their emphasis on harmony with nature. I realized that these writings had so much more depth than what I had seen on TV.
It has truly been a blessing to have had the opportunity to study the Chinese language over the last one and a half years. I was absolutely enthralled by the beauty and complexity of the language the moment I commenced my studies as a freshman in high school under the guidance of my instructor, Mr. Chen. Rather than limiting his lessons to teaching grammar and vocabulary, my instructor strives to provide his students with a “cross-cultural experience,” revealing the intricacies of China’s rich history. I have been given the chance to explore Chinese culture through small-scale simulations of the familial jamborees that take place on holidays like Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival- snacking on mooncake and sipping hot, freshly brewed, unsweetened tea. Our class engages in group singing sessions of several Chinese tunes, ranging from the traditional “Zhù nǐ shēngrì kuàilè” to modern renditions of “Shíjiān dōu qù nǎr le.” Not only do these engaging festivities strengthen our cultural, historical, and linguistic understanding, but they also boost group harmony. This is a testament to the power of language study and the way in which it can connect those from vastly varying backgrounds in a truly magnificent fashion.
Chinese language and culture have had an extremely positive influence on the world and an even greater impact on me. Chinese Studies introduced me to a happiness that I had never experienced before. Without the Confucius Institute, I would not have this incredible passion today.