Over the summer, I participated in an eight-week Chinese language workshop through Indiana University’s nationally recognized Flagship Language Initiative. The program covers the equivalent of two semesters of university-level Chinese, and I achieved an intermediate high Chinese proficiency rating after beginning the program at only the elementary level. The program also focused on how to analyze Chinese scholarly sources and write research papers in Chinese. The final aspect was cultural, and we regularly took part in cultural activities and virtual homestays. The language skills and techniques I learned during this program prepared me to begin conducting my Honors in the Major research later in the summer.
Due to the pandemic, the program was conducted online rather than in Indiana, but the transition online was seamless and did not seem to impact the quality of instruction. The language program consisted of four hours of class per day, five days a week, as well as one-on-one tutoring sessions each morning. Out of class, we were expected to spend at least five hours a day studying, and I usually worked late into the night. The program also had a strong cultural aspect with daily cultural activities ranging from calligraphy to mahjong. Each weekend, we had ‘virtual homestays’ with university students in Taiwan. We would discuss Taiwanese cultural and the differences between Taiwan and the U.S. in Chinese. In addition to the rigorous language instruction, we wrote a short book and a research paper based on Chinese language sources and interviews we conducted in Chinese. This, along with presentations from faculty on how to locate, sort through, and access Chinese language sources were critical now that I am conducting research on China.
This semester, I will continue to use those language and research skills to conduct my Honors in the Major research. I am analyzing the disparity between China’s official policy of non-intervention and its actions on the ground mediating conflicts throughout the world. For my research, I am relying heavily on Chinese scholarly sources and primary documents in Chinese. Without the skills I gained earlier in the summer, I would have been severely limited in my ability to approach this topic and engage primary sources.
The Social Science Scholars program has greatly enriched my experience in three key ways. First, the spring seminar exposed me to new forms of leadership and ways of thinking about service. The activities and discussions also pushed me to reflect on my own experiences and led to personal growth. Second, it introduced me to an amazing group of brilliant, high-achieving students. Third, it provided me with a summer opportunity that otherwise would not have been possible. The massive leap in my Chinese language abilities builds on my previous experience interning in China and studying China. With that experience, I am much more prepared to conduct research on China this year and continue my language studies. Moving forward, I will now be competitive for fellowships to study in China, top graduate schools, and other post-graduation opportunities. Overall, the program has set me far ahead of where I would have been personally and academically. For that, I am deeply grateful to be a part of this class of Social Science Scholars.
Nick Hearing is an undergraduate at Florida State University studying international affairs and economics. Nick is a Presidental Scholar and a 2020 Social Science Scholar. You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn.
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