Elena Dempsey, University of Rhode Island, Global Business & Chinese
Going to China has really changed my whole view on the world. Traveling and studying there gave me a chance to fully immerse myself in a culture that is completely different then my own. It opened my eyes to a whole different way of life. I can't wait to go back and create more memories. (Elena will spend one year in China in 2011-12 studying and interning as part of the URI International Business Program.)
Elizabeth Morais, Professor of Spanish & Portuguese, Community College of Rhode Island
I had wanted to learn a new language for a while. I chose Chinese because of its difference from the Romance languages I have worked with for so long. I expected it to be different and looked forward to the challenge. I was confident in my language learning abilities. Those first few days, I felt like everyone understood but me. It was so very foreign. I felt lost and toldmyself, "You have to do this. You are a foreign language teacher and learner. You can do this." I loved being on campus. Attending classes and getting to know college students from both sides of the desk made me feel alive. One early morning a few days into the program, I was sitting and drinking coffee hearing the birds through the open windows. I began to hear Chinese sounds in their songs and chattering. Shortly after that I started to see Chinese characters in odd places. I was developing an ear for those sounds, and I was beginning to decode the unfamiliar symbols. How exciting! I learned so much from the program, our teachers and tutors and my fellow students. I'm now on my way to fluency in Mandarin. I dispelled the belief that old folks can’t learn foreign language. I met some great people. I gained basic knowledge of and appreciation for a previously unknown and seemingly inaccessible people and culture. This summer I plan to study again and to study in China. I will have a solid background by June and am confident that I will be prepared for the 300 level courses in fall 2011 and beyond. Who knows perhaps one day in the not too distant future I will be able to teach some Basic Chinese courses. Thank you URI Chinese Summer School.
Abel DaCorte, Rhode Island College, English - Creative Writing
I decided after several years of studying romance languages, that I wanted to really challenge myself with the study of a language as far from my comfort zone as possible. I dabbled with Japanese and American Sign Language, explored Khmer and Thai, then ultimately settled on Mandarin after a meeting with Professor Qian at the URI Downtown campus. Once she discussed the summer program with me, I was hooked, and though I was starting 5 weeks into the fall semester, I was determined to catch up and stay on track for the intermediate summer program in Hangzhou. I somehow expected to land in China and start speaking to natives immediately; I learned very quickly how much more language there was to learn. The residents of Hangzhou were patient and within a few short days I found that the easiest people to talk to were the taxi drivers. At least being a part-time cab driver here in RI, I had something in common to start a conversation. It was interesting to see different strengths develop in my peers as time progressed. Some became great at bartering, others at ordering dinner for the group in a restaurant, and I inevitably became the group personal GPS. While classes were challenging, street signs weren't. Perhaps that's the cab driver in me, but I can still clearly remember the street names and major intersections that I used to give to other students (or their taxi drivers) over the phone when outings were split into 5 taxis, each driver with a different route planned to the same destination. By the last week shopping evolved from pointing and smiling to asking for prices or other options and ordering food slowly became easier. The coursework seemed insurmountable in week one, then achievable by week four. I think the most challenging task we undertook was cooking barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes for the 26 of us and our teachers at Zhejiang with woks and single hot plate burners split over 3 kitchens each on different floors of the dorm building. I learned that you can really only scratch the surface of what Hangzhou, or China, has to offer in a month's time, however it truly piqued my interest for long term study in China - that and if you're going to cook Western style, bring your own pans! I hope to completed another session next year, and plan on continuing with classes in the the fall, maybe even return to Zhejiang University for my Master's in 2012.