Increasing Fluency in Shanghai
What I enjoyed most about my study abroad experience was being able to meet new people and have new experiences. Not only did I meet other students from different schools from across the U.S., with different majors, backgrounds, and Chinese-speaking abilities, I also met other Chinese students that attended ECNU, the university I studied at in Shanghai. Although there were several other students from the U of M that attended this very program (some of who I actually did not know before attending this program), I made friends with other study abroad students from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. My roommate was from a small city about an hour away from Shanghai, and my teachers and other Chinese students that I interacted with were also from all over China.
I also had some amazing experiences while I was abroad, including trying new foods for the first time, or being able to practice my Chinese in the city or with street vendors. In Shanghai, I got to go to the Bund, East Nanjing Road, Yu Gardens, the French Concession, the fake market, and Disney. I was able to explore the different areas of Shanghai and see the different pockets of culture that all exist within a single city. Even though I got lost, and sometimes things did not go according to plan, every day was a success in my eyes because I got to explore and discover new parts of Shanghai.
My proudest accomplishment is that my comfort and fluency level with speaking Chinese improved dramatically, and I’m sure that this improvement can be attrbuted to essentially having no other choice than to be speaking Chinese almost all the time. In the U.S. I didn’t have very many opportunities to practice speaking, especially to native speakers. In China, however, I spoke Chinese every day, many times a day, to native Chinese speakers, and this really helped make me more comfortable speaking and communicating. Most speakers will correct you if you make a mistake speaking, but they don’t judge or make fun of you because they’re just excited that you’re learning and speaking their language.
I also noticed a significant improvement in my reading and writing abilities, especially in academic settings. The classes I took were structured in a way that every week we learned about a new social issue/topic, but with those different topics we learned different words and grammar patterns, and at the end of each unit, I was able to write a comprehensive 400-plus word essay in Chinese.
Chinese is one of my majors at the U, so I will be continuing to study and learn the language. For the fall semester, I am registered for CHN 4041, and I am only able to take this class because of my success this summer taking advanced Chinese. Through this program, I was able to take what essentially counts as an academic year of Chinese, enabling me to take advanced Chinese readings this fall.
This also is helpful in terms of my post-graduation plans, as I am planning on pursuing a master’s degree in Asian Studies through the U as well. My area of focus will be China, and hopefully I am able to go abroad to do research there as well, so I’m sure my Chinese language abilities will be helpful.
In terms of my career, I hope to work for international law enforcement, and being able to speak a second language, especially Chinese, is invaluable for those wishing to work on an international scale. Given that I do hope to work with/in Asia, preferably a Mandarin Chinese-speaking country, the Chinese skills that I have developed this summer will further my Chinese ability and qualifications in working towards being able to work in a Chinese-speaking country.