By Casey Mook
I came here with goals of improving my mandarin Chinese, to learn a new culture, and to try something new. After being with these new people who I never met before this thrilling experience, I see now that there are tons of kids just like me with similar goals and dreams. The only difference is we came from all over the U.S to do something truly amazing with a generous program. I have seen and learned so much already not just about Chinese but their people. Now that I will be making Chinese friends every time I have dinner, it makes me excited for the good times and relationships that will be created for the future. This program can be seen as more than bringing kids to China to learn Chinese, but also as bringing people together to encourage diversity. Every time I leave the U.S.A. bubble of English and American culture I see the new faces that are three feet away from me every time I go to the dining hall. This program is not about individual people learning Chinese but about a large group of people coming together from different places and cultures to learn Chinese and create an everlasting bond. That’s why this program is about the people which is why every day I am happy to grow closer to each person near me, even the ones I haven’t met yet.
Today I woke up and the sky was the clearest I have seen since arriving here. The first model school day was today and I think I and most others can say they don’t have jet lag, so hopefully people won’t be falling asleep at 7 like I did every night so far. Its 8:30 now so this is a new record for me. My favorite food here or at least the thing I have eaten the most is like a chocolatey muffin and today for the first time they didn’t have it for breakfast. Besides that we got to do our interest group for the first time and tai qi fan was quite painful and fun, I don’t know what the other groups did but I know what they are. The other two groups are shadow puppets and long-sleeve dance. Today we learned what our warm up will be every day this week and also some technique that is slightly painful for the inflexible and weak. In culture Class we learned a lot about China’s culture and I understand how important it is for us to learn their culture and learn it well. Seeing how it is 9 and I am really tired and I want to sleep I still must be jet lagged so hopefully tomorrow will be the day that I don’t feel jet lagged.
By Annabel Ricks
Today, the students of NISL-Y transitioned from yesterday’s July 4th festivities to their first full school day at Xiamen University. After a hearty breakfast, groups one and two gathered for their first E-portfolio meeting. Facilitated by Chen Laoshi and Tu Laoshi, E-portfolio meetings are designed to create cultural awareness through discussions about our own cultures and subsequently how we view others. In my group, group two (aka the tigers), we talked with Tu Laoshi about the importance of understanding our own cultures in order to be true “young ambassadors”. We each shared whom we personally identify as with the group (singer, dreamer, male, Buddhist), and discussed each identity’s traits as well as how each identifier affects the other. When we finished our discussion, all five groups went together to our classes in a separate building. In my class, Intermediate II, we are taught by the amazing Yang Laoshi. Unlike my school’s Chinese class, Yang Laoshi speaks to us mostly in Chinese. We began class with a test, and moved on to talking about sentence structures and vocab relating to weather. Once we got more used to the material, we had two competitions. In one competition we had to essentially “insult” each other in Chinese using the “A is more (adjective) than B” structure, and the other we tried to say as much of the vocab learned in sentences in a certain amount of time. I was personally very nervous about the competitions, but my team was still able to win the second game and get a prize! Even after one class, I already feel more confident with my Chinese.
Once class ended, we took a short break before lunch. When we aren’t studying, a large group of us love to get together to play card games. Our favorite is called Egyptian Rat-screw, and while we all have loads of fun, the game can get extremely competitive. There have only been a few minor casualties. Shout out to Mandy, who apparently isn’t capable of losing. We’ll beat you eventually. Our next class was our cultural class with Chen Laoshi. He talked about China’s geography, population, and political history. He also took time to draw similarities between America and China. For example, he told us about the conflict between northern and southern China, and how the relationship is similar to that in America between the north and south. The class will later go into other important topics including the One Child Policy, and the issue of Taiwan.
After these classes, we went to our interest groups, where we learn aspects of Chinese culture ranging from Taiqi to Peking opera makeup. Today, a girl from the Peking opera club came to talk to us about the Peking opera. She introduced the topic to us with a lovely vocal performance from one of the Xiamen University students. We then learned about the structure of Peking opera, including how the colors on each character’s mask describes the character’s personality. For example, black masks suggest a loyal character, while in contrast white masks suggest the character is not trust worthy. At the end of the class, we got to try some of the instruments, and try on traditional Peking opera clothing.
For the last activity of the day, we met with our tutors, also Xiamen University students, to work on our homework. The tutors would help us with any questions we had, so I was able to make good use of my time and finish some of my homework before dinner. One unique aspect of the tutoring that surprised me was that it was group based rather than individually. I especially liked this structure because everyone could work together as a group on our homework, which I have discovered to be a lot more effective in the case of language learning.
Although the first day of work was rigorous and in the future will only become more so, I think I can speak for every student here in saying that it will all pay off in spades. Students in the NSLI-Y program came here to pursue
an incredible education in the Chinese language and culture, and we couldn’t be in a better place to do so.
By Bryce Fan
It was Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who once said, “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”
After embracing a painful 20+ hours of plane travel, a two hour flight delay to Xiamen due to weather, and a treacherous half mile walk to Shanghai Pudong International’s Terminal One, a new beginning has indeed blossomed: UD NSLI-Y’s adventure in Xiamen.
We woke up this morning to a beautiful view of Xiamen University’s world-famous campus after a good night’s rest. Surrounded by the breathtaking mountains, lush forests, and exquisite architecture of XMU’s campus, we headed to breakfast and enjoyed a delicious, traditional Chinese breakfast consisting of specialities such as jiao zi, you tiao, and bao zi. Needless to say, with the entire cafeteria to ourselves, many of our students enjoyed a second and third helping.
After a wonderful breakfast, our group headed to XMU’s College of Humanities for an opening ceremony, where we were welcomed by senior administrative staff of Xiamen University. As a top 10 university in China, our group was delighted to hear the opening remarks of University Vice President Zhan Xinli, along with the University’s Associate Dean and our local teachers and chaperones. Program director Dr. Jianguo Chen also gave a few words, expressing the program’s sincere gratitude for Xiamen University’s hospitality and the importance of the US-China relationship for generations to come. The opening ceremony ended with the wonderful words of program student Leah Booher, who gave a speech on behalf of the entire program in Chinese. Our students also received their mobile phones and local SIM cards to use while at the program, thanks to our awesome staff here in Xiamen.
Once stuffing ourselves with an equally delicious lunch, our group went their separate ways for the very first day of class. The Chinese amongst our program’s participants was so talented that a beginner level class was unnecessary. With two levels of intermediate and an advanced class, UD NSLI-Y’s students began their journey to achieve the State Department’s minimum language instruction period of 120 hours. Despite only an hour of class, it was clear from both the positive comments of the program’s instructors and the excitement of students that the next 119 hours will be filled with productivity, fun, and laughter.
Our group then watched a talent show put on by local Xiamen University students to introduce the program’s interest groups. In addition to the required 120 hours of language instruction, students are also given the ability to further understand Chinese culture by picking a weekly interest group, with activities such as shu fa (Chinese calligraphy), tai ji (Tai Chi), and traditional Chinese shadow puppets. We then separated into our five “Striving for Excellence” groups, where our local chaperones and teachers prepared a Scavenger Hunt for students to discover and explore the Xiamen University campus. Students were tasked with working together, reading a map in Chinese, and taking pictures at famous landmarks and important places (like the laundry room!) while running in 85º, 75% humidity weather across Xiamen University’s massive 200 acre campus. The results have yet to be released — but rest assured it was a close competition for most of us (sorry, Group 5). As we await dinner, most of us are back at the dorm resting from our intense work out. Tomorrow, the group will celebrate American Independence Day, where we’ll explore places of historical and cultural significance in the city of Xiamen, and enjoy a fancy seafood buffet for dinner. For a Chinese city famous for its fresh seafood and exquisite cuisine, you can bet that most of us will be eating a light lunch.
As our first day in Xiamen comes to a close, we reflect on the past 24 hours. Whether it be the profuse laughter and smiles from our two hour layover in the airport, walking around the breathtakingly beautiful Xiamen University campus, or the smiles, encouragement, and hard work from every single staff member here in Xiamen, these next six weeks will undoubtedly be challenging — but they will be incredibly rewarding. Behind every Chinese word that comes out of our program’s students and staff reveals a message far greater than mere communication: it represents our desire to further understand the land that 1.4 billion people call home, to comprehend the incredibly rich history and culture of a nation thousands of years old, and to embrace a country whose relationship with the United States has never been more important.
By Matthew Travers
239 years ago, today, our founding fathers fought for and attained the sentiment that echoed through each of our minds as we sang on the bus ride to Wei You Shi Fu restaurant in Xiamen, China: “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave… for the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Although most NSLI-Y students are accustomed to seeing this famous banner on Independence Day, we were instead met in Xiamen by the soaring dragon of the Qing Dynasty flag at Hu Li Shan Fortress (built in the second of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911). As an American, it seemed strange to me that we were almost entirely alone in expressing enthusiasm and recognition for this significant day in our culture. However, these lyrics of our national anthem nonetheless rang true for us as we spent the day exploring and learning to understand the extensive culture of China. We were freely, although briefly, able to explore famous attractions in Xiamen, including the ornately decorated building complex of the Nan Pu Tuo Buddhist Temple, the defensive cannon and beach of Hu Li Shan Fortress, and the memorial to Tah Kan Kee, the founder of Xiamen University, at the Turtle Garden in Jimei. While braving through the heat and humidity native to Southern China on these excursions, we were still sun burned (somehow through all the fog!) as we visited and bartered with local Chinese shop keepers. After feasting upon the duck soup, famous to Wei You Shi Fu restaurant, at lunch, we finished our Independence Day celebration with a sea food buffet at an upscale restaurant. After returning to room 501 at the Cai Jing Jie International Students Dormitory, I immediately began preparing myself for our next journey at Xiamen!
By Isaac McCurdy
You know how some movies start out amazing and only get better? That’s how the University of Delaware’s 2015 NSLI-Y Summer Institute of Chinese Language and Culture is turning out. Our adventures began at Pre-departure Orientation in Newark, New Jersey.
Breakfast began at 8:00 am. It was a nice time to start getting to know our classmates for the next 6 weeks. After breakfast, the program director, Dr Jianguo Chen gave welcome remarks and an introduction to the program. Dr Chen is the director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Delaware. He has led this program since it began in 2007. With every slide that Dr Chen showed, my excitement grew. We have so much in store for us this summer.
Next in store was a getting to know each other. Our whole group is divided into five subgroups of 5. We broke into groups, and each was assigned an animal mascot, lion, tiger, koala, panda, and swan. The people in the groups lined up, and each person was given the task of introducing the person next to him to the group.
After this, we watched a presentation by Dr Carol Radomski of the US Department of State. It highlighted the sense of responsibility that we have as exchange students. We are, in a way, ambassadors. Many Chinese people have not seen an American before, and they may, therefore, think that all Americans act as we do. If we act well, it will give people a good impression of Americans and America, and not doing so will do the opposite.
Next we had a short break followed by a discussion of language immersion led by Dr Maria Tu, the co-director of our program. She told us about what our academic activities will be. We will have about 3 hours of classroom work in each of our respective classes along with an hour and a half tutoring session with a Xiamen University student. She also told us about the Strive for Excellence program. Strive for Excellence is a point system designed to stimulate and quantify student activity. Students start out with 70 points and win points by doing things like helping teachers, participating actively in class, being attentive during cultural excursions, showing good leadership, and exhibiting qualities of that sort. They lose points by doing the opposite. At the end of our six weeks, the group and student with the most points will be given a large award.
Next, Kuangbin Fan, the Assistant Program Coordinator covered some administrative details and the program logistic issues. Next was lunch. It was also a good time for socializing, but no one had his mind solely on hanging out because next came the language placement test.In the NSLI-Y application, each student assessed his or her level of Chinese proficiency.
After being accepted, each student with prior knowledge of Chinese also completed an Oral Proficiency Interview.With this information, Dr Tu tentatively assigned assigned each student to Intermediate I, Intermediate II, or Advanced. This test was to be the final determination of class assignments. The test consisted of 2 parts: a test made for the assigned level, and a harder test for the entire group. After completing them, some students shifted classes up or down, but most remained at their assigned levels.
After this, Dr Chen gave everyone advice on cross-cultural communication. He gave us examples of how students had done a good job and a bad job of this in the past. Next came a short break after which Dr Chen discussed the expectation of participants. We went through the program Student Guidelines and rules line by line, but it was far from tedious. Dr Chen had a student begin reading, then stopped him or her to discuss the reason for the rule. Each rule was made in response to a past happening. Whenever there has been a problem in this program, a rule has been made to prevent it from ever happening again.
After a short Q and A session, students ate dinner, hung out together, and made sure they were packed. Excitement kept building as the departure time neared. It was hard to believe that the next morning, we would leave for the other side of the world: the Middle Kingdom.
Funded by a federal grant ($280,500) from the US State Department and American Councils, the 2015 UD-NSLIY Summer Institute of the Chinese Language and Culture in China was successfully launched on June 29, 2015! The Confucius Institute at UD, the sponsor of the 2015 UD-NSLIY, organized a Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) for 25 talented American high school students who were recruited from a very competitive national selection process for the prestigious NSLIY Scholarship program. Coming over from the states including California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, West Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, Missouri, Montana, Massachusetts, and Alabama, the program participants, as well as some parents, received a carefully designed Pre-Departure Orientation that provided information on various important aspects of the summer program such as program overview and expectations, the structure of Chinese language immersion, tutoring sessions, culture course and E-portfolio course, homestay, “Strive for Excellence” activities, Chinese language course placement test, discussion sessions on health, safety, security, sexual harassment, cross-cultural communication culture shock, program textbook overview, Student Code of Conduct, as well as program Q & A Session. One of the highlights of the PDO was a presentation by Dr. Carol Radomski of the US Department of State, in which she greeted the program participants on behalf of the State Department, briefed them on the history of NSLIY, and discussed the significance of the NSLIY program, program goals, citizen ambassador, people to people diplomacy, cultural exchange programs, cross-cultural communication and respect, safety and security issues, etc. The two-day PDO activities, both informative and lively, and full of fun, familiarized the students with the summer institute and prepared them well for the upcoming China trip. “I am excited about this program,” Leah Booher, one of the program participants, was quoted as saying. “And I am ready.”
For more photos of the PDO. Click here.
A short photo video highlighting the UD-NSLIY program while in Xiamen. Many of the pictures are shown for the first time on this blog. They learned. They laughed. They explored. And they’ll remember these wonderful five weeks and always be missed by their teachers, friends and homestay families in Xiamen.
Photo courtesy of the participants and chaperons.
For thirty participants of the NSLIY program, riding a five-hour high speed train (average speed 185 miles per hour) from Shanghai to Beijing marked another eye-opening experience for them. They arrived at Beijing around 11 o’clock in the morning on August 10. The group will spend the last few days in Beijing before they come back to the United States.
In the afternoon, they visited the Wangfujing Streets, one of the capital’s most famous shopping streets.
In the morning on August 11, the group departed for the Great Wall. The participants all learned a famous poem by Chairman Mao Zedong: “One is not a true man until he or she gets to the Great Wall”. Upon arrival at the foot of the Great Wall, all participants got very excited and all climbed up to the top and hence claimed that they were all “true men”!
In the afternoon, the group visited the “Bird’s Nest”, the Beijing National Stadium, home stadium of the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. They wrapped up the day trip with a shopping session in the most famous shopping district in Beijing, the Xiu Shui Street (Silk Street). Good prices and a variety of selections made the day for the participants.
On August 7th, the UD-NSLIY group visited several popular sites in Shanghai, including the Shanghai Museum of Sun Yat-Sen’s Former Residence, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center and the Yu Garden. They watched a show by the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe in the evening, which they enjoyed very much. Going through the modern sides and old-time places of the city of Shanghai, the participants now gained a much thorough understanding of the city and China.