Adam Kleist poses with a rock pile

Going to China gave me an experience that I could not have gotten at home in the U.S. By being immersed in an authentic Chinese environment, I gained skills that I did not learn in the classroom. I learned how to form real relationships with Chinese people that did not speak English, and had the opportunity to study course materials in Chinese, a skill that will be valuable both in future Chinese classes and in my career.

I also enjoyed being able to make friends with American students from different parts of the country. I think that I gained a deeper understanding of how the U.S. is seen throughout the world, as well as how my interactions with others abroad are affected by my status as an American citizen, with all of the power and privilege that it entails.

My proudest accomplishment while studying in China is learning to speak Chinese with locals. I found the language pledge challenging, and at times unhelpful, but in the end it improved my Chinese fluency to a significant degree. Although sometimes I had to give up altogether on explaining a concept because I wasn't allowed to do so in English, the language pledge was especially key given that I was primarily interacting with other Americans. The pledge even taught me to start thinking in Chinese and adopting more authentic Chinese speech patterns.

Writing my final paper in Chinese was also a big challenge, but looking ahead to my future Chinese classes, I'm much more confident in my ability to write an academic document having had the experience of drafting my 2,000-character thesis this summer, which I am grateful for. I also gained the ability to discuss the events that I wrote about in Chinese, as well as other topics that I was required to present orally on numerous occasions. These skills will definitely help me in future classes and in future experiences in China. I now have the confidence to go back to China next year for a longer, more intensive stay, and I hope to be able to take courses in history or other subjects alongside native Chinese students, something that felt out of reach before this summer.

I hope to use my Chinese language skills in the future to enhance my career in the field of human resources or law. I think that speaking Chinese will be a very useful skill when working with Chinese clients or customers, regardless of where in the world I am working. As a lawyer or a businessman or something similar, being able to speak Chinese at a high level will undoubtedly be a highly in-demand skill that will help ensure my job security. China is a massive country and an incredibly important part of the global economy. Many jobs in this global economy don't have a clear-cut path into the field, so even though I lack a specific career plan, I believe that my Chinese language skills will open many doors for me in the future in unpredictable places.