Name: Eliza Moore
Location of Study: Beijing, China
Program of Study: CIEE Summer Intensive Chinese Language
Sponsors: Justin Liu & Bruce Broillet
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising sophomore with a double major in Business and Chinese. I am originally from Carmel, Indiana, which is a suburb outside of Indianapolis. I attended Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School which gave me an appreciation of diversity and showed me the importance of internationalization. Among other activities at Notre Dame, I am involved with student council, Habitat for Humanity, and campus ministry.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA grant is critical in helping my quest for language acquisition abroad. China is one of the major players in the global economy and I believe it is very important to try and understand the Chinese culture.In the future, it would allow me to advocate for positive relationships between different groups of people both inside and outside the business world. Going to China will give me more of a hands-on experience with what I am learning. I would really like to enhance my speaking and writing skills in Mandarin while I am there and get a better understanding of what global and international business is like. This great network of people that I would develop would be very beneficial in my future professional life.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
One of my main goals is to demystify the stereotypes associated with the Chinese as well as the Americans. After studying Mandarin for a year, I believe that the CIEE immersion is the ideal complement to my academic program. The program will not only allow me to improve my language skills but will also allow me to get immersed into the Chinese culture at the same time. The program is one that puts a large emphasis on learning inside and outside the classroom. This is a supplement to my goals because I want to experience China, not just sit in a classroom all day. One of my biggest concerns is that over the summer I will lose some proficiency in what I have already learned if I don’t focus on learning more. Going to China would also allow me to further my knowledge and learn more about the Chinese people at the same time. I want to learn Mandarin as quickly as possible so that I can use my skills to create understanding among different groups of people. I have always believed that immersion is the best way to truly understand different values in people. It is important for me to learn more about the culture behind the language so I can better relate to the people I will be talking to. Studying in the traditional city of Beijing will also be the perfect opportunity to learn about the history of the country as well.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write, and listen at a level of proficiency equal to two semesters beyond my current Chinese coursework placement at Notre Dame.
- At the end of the summer, I want to be able to effectively communicate in basic day to day interactions with a native Chinese speaker.
- At the end of the summer, I want to have opened my eyes to rich and complex Chinese culture and its implications on the modern business world.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I would like to stay with a host family so that I can fully take advantage of communicating completely in Chinese. I also would like to see how average people in China live. Beijing is home to the best research universities in their country and I would really like to explore the different research opportunities available. I am especially interested in how China factors in to the global economy and what the future will be like for the United States and China. The CIEE program also offers a cultural reimbursement program which would allow me all kinds of opportunities to visit historic sites, movies, concerts, operas, and shows. There are also endless opportunities through the program to attend lectures from businessmen and other people working abroad that I would attend to gain insight. I would have my own tutor that I have meals with and I am required to only speak in Chinese on campus. When I get to the university I also have orientation which also allows me to understand the different opportunities available even better. Taking advantage of all the native speakers surrounding me is something that I really plan on focusing on as well.
Reflective Journal Entry 1: Arrival and Adaptation
I have been in Beijing for a little over two weeks now. It has been difficult at times to adjust to this new culture, but very rewarding as well. Beijing has many different opportunities and I am trying to take advantage of them. I have class in the morning every day and then three tutoring sessions a week. My program also has organized cultural immersion activities which have allowed me to do a variety of cool things.
While in Beijing, I chose to stay with a host family that only speaks to me in Chinese. This has definitely helped me with my language acquisition goals. Although I have only been here two weeks, I can already tell a difference in my comprehension skills. It still takes me a while to prepare what I am trying to say in my head, but I can definitely understand more of what people say to me. When I first arrived, I thought that everyone spoke so quickly and I was worried that I wouldn’t catch on. However, after being around my family, I am able to pick out words that I know. They sometimes have to repeat themselves but an eventual understanding is reached. This does not seem like a huge accomplishment but I am looking forward to what progress this will lead to in the future.
I also am able to go over whatever I want to with my tutor. It has been very helpful to talk all in Chinese about things I find difficult. When I have a difficult situation or something I don’t understand during the week, I just ask my tutor about it later. It has definitely cleared up certain misunderstandings that I have had. I have even been able to speak to other people outside of the everyday encounters. While trying to go somewhere on the subway, my friend and I were able to successfully get directions from someone in Chinese. These different meetings have helped me get a feel for everyday conversations and not just the typical things you say in a classroom setting.
I have had the opportunity to talk to people who are minorities in China. I have even had the unique opportunity of being one myself. I have talked to an American who has lived in China for years and he said that the attitudes that the Chinese have towards Americans and other foreigners is generally very friendly. They are willing to help you anytime. Their meaning of “friend” is very different from ours and it takes a very long time for a Chinese person to call you “friend”. That being said, attitudes as a whole towards foreigners have gotten a little tense lately, especially in the last few months. We have been advised to not do anything too controversial and we will be fine. I also talked to another person who is from Italy and she said that all of the Chinese people have treated her with respect as well. It seems to me that foreigners are treated as they are in the United States and maybe even better. I have experienced only true kindness. There have been times where I have felt a little uncomfortable because I stand out so much, but for the most part I forget what I look like and don’t even feel like I am a minority here. People do not stare at you as they sometimes do in America and you just blend into the crowd. The Chinese people also offer you their assistance if you ever look like you need it. I have been given help when I look confused because they know I am a foreigner. They also really appreciate people trying to learn Chinese and they realize it is a difficult language to learn.
I am trying my best to speak in Chinese as much as possible and to talk to native speakers. I have really enjoyed the experience thus far and I am looking forward to more and more language acquisition.
Reflective Journal Entry 2: Overcoming Stereotypes
Over the past few weeks, I have definitely talked to a variety of different people. It has been very interesting to me to see how the Chinese people view Americans. There have been many things that have surprised me, and not all in a good way. Before arriving to China, I read an article about how there are increasing negative attitudes in China towards foreigners, especially Americans. Some have even turned violent. However, I have mostly only really encountered curiosity and kindness.
Because I am living with a host family, I have had the opportunity to speak quite a bit with my host dad. He really likes to share his opinions and so I have gotten a sense of how the older Chinese view Americans. He really likes to watch American television and movies if they have Chinese subtitles so that he can fully understand them. He has told me that they help him with his English because he knows a little. My host dad, like many Chinese people, asks me very blunt questions about myself and other Americans. There are many stereotypes that go along with these questions such as the idea that all Americans are rich. It catches me off guard but then I remember that he is only curious and is not trying to offend me in any way. He is also a law teacher so he is very interested in the educational system and he is even interested in having his daughter study in the US one day. I can see that many Chinese regard the education in America very highly. He thinks that it is important for his daughter to learn English so that she can get a better job. The ideas that they have about race and religion are a little different than ours because they come from a Communist country. I have heard a few things that would probably not necessarily be said in America. I think our attitudes are a little bit more open and of course more democratic.
The second person who I have talked to about America is my tutor. She is a 22-year old graduate student. She aspires to one day go to school in America (possibly Notre Dame) so that she can get her Masters. She thinks America is a place full of opportunities and that the people are very nice. I also thought it was interesting that she could name so many American colleges that she was interested in. We were discussing the differences between Chinese and Americans and she asked me to describe the typical American, both in looks and personality. This was actually a very difficult question for me because Americans all look so unique and because it was hard to describe our attitudes. I ended up saying we are very patriotic, hard-working, and loving. One thing that she said that really stayed with me is that she thought that Americans didn’t love their families when I said they did. She had this idea because she had heard of the high divorce rate. It is different in China because it is really looked down upon to get a divorce so many couples stay together even if they are unhappy. Also, the Chinese people sometimes get married for different reasons than Americans. I tried to clarify that we do love our families and that there are many different reasons for the divorce rate. This stereotype alarmed me because it wasn’t something that I had thought about before and I hope that in the future, I can clarify other negative stereotypes as well.
One more person I have interviewed is one of my teachers. He is pretty young and he has an interest in America. He thinks that the Chinese people know a lot more about American/Western culture than we know about Chinese/Eastern culture. I really do agree with him because I know that if I wasn’t taking Chinese, I probably would not know much about the east at all. From the time Chinese are young, they learn western history as well as eastern. My schools mostly just taught me about the United States’ and Europe’s histories. My teacher thinks China is going to have the largest economy in a few years so it is important for us to start learning about the east. I couldn’t agree more with him.
The interviews that I have had with different Chinese people have taught me so much. They have been difficult at times since I am only speaking Chinese. I do not always fully understand what people are trying to get across. However, I think it is just as important to learn about the Chinese culture as it is to learn the language. Learning about the culture has definitely helped with my language acquisition.
Reflective Journal Entry 3: Food
There are many different foods that are unique to China and I had no idea what “real” Chinese was until I came to Beijing. I am not a picky eater so I have found many different things that I love. I have even tried 北京烤鸭, which is Peking duck which is very famous. The way that the Chinese people eat definitely says a lot about their culture. Everyone shares dishes which is representative of how close they are as a people, especially within their families and with their friends. My host family always serves me first because I am a guest. I also have definitely improved my chopstick skills as I have been here. The restaurants unfortunately do not usually have water which has taken some getting used to.
One of the popular dishes among the people in my group is 饺子, or steamed dumplings. These come in many different varies. I have ordered these at a restaurant before and my group even got the chance to make them at a local restaurant yesterday. The process was very long. First, we had to cut and make the dough into circles like a cookie. Then we had to take the vegetable stuffing and stuff them. Finally, we had to pinch them at the top. It sounds really easy but it is actually quite difficult. Our dumplings were not really a pretty sight. The amount of time it takes to prepare the dumplings show the precision and the patience that the Chinese people have that make them. They also have a lot of artful skill which is evident by how good their dumplings look when finished compared to ours. After creating our dumplings, we had a big meal which included our饺子, which unfortunately were not as good as the rest of our meal. We prepared them somewhat poorly because we didn’t know how to properly close them. This made it difficult to steam them so they still had a lot of dough on them.
Many people in China are very health-conscious. People try to eat well and they eat a lot of rice and vegetables. They really care about taking care of themselves and others. Meals are very social and they bring people together. One person usually picks up the bill and a typical meal can take a couple hours. Plates of different things are brought out in a certain order according to tradition. There is also a lot of street food and food from different regions of China. Each of these different foods has their own story and it is always interesting to hear them. They represent different Chinese people and people take pride in the food from their hometowns. It is often pointed out to me which province a certain dish originates from. I have really enjoyed getting to learn about the different foods here in China and it has definitely helped me to speak to people in Chinese about the food. Food is a common-ground topic and the waiters and waitresses are very patient and helpful. I look forward to trying to make many of these foods at home.
Reflective Journal Entry 4: Social Topic
I was able to talk to different people in China about the one-child policy. As many of us know, the one child policy exists due to the problem of overpopulation in China. This has developed into a cultural problem because many of the children are somewhat pampered because they are their family’s only child. This leads to a little bit of a selfish attitude in the children. There is also a shortage of women in China. The culture allows the male children to take care of the parents when they are old. However, a woman becomes part of her husband’s family when she marries. That is the reason why so many Chinese people wish for a son.
I was able to talk to one of my teachers about this topic. He was pretty young and he thought that China really had no other choice. My tutor also said a similar thing. My host dad thought that until they can come up with another option, the one child policy should be in place. However, he has a daughter and he thinks there should be a way to encourage other people to have a daughters. It was very interesting to me to hear their responses because the system is a little unfair in my opinion. The wealthier people are allowed to have more children if they can pay for it. The way that the Chinese people think about this issue is very different than Americans who are brought up a certain way and believe certain things about equality.
Postcard(s) from Abroad:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
My trip to China allowed me to better understand the language acquisition process. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the culture because I got to experience it first-hand. It was sometimes difficult to always keep an open mind and to try and constantly speak in Chinese. There were many small challenges that I would often have to step back from and think through. By interacting with native speakers, I was able to see their perspectives and gain insight into how they were raised. I didn’t accomplish all of the goals that I set out to but that is because many of my goals changed when I arrived in China. Smaller tasks were much more difficult that I could have predicted. I did a whole lot more that I could have imagined and different aspects of learning Mandarin became easier for me.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
This trip was the first time I had ever ventured out into the world on my own. It was a truly gratifying experience to travel and go somewhere, knowing absolutely no one, with only myself to rely on. It was definitely scary at times, but I learned that there are certain kinds of universal communication techniques. I also learned how to read different situations and how to be patient. I now understand how another group of people live in the world and it has given me a greater appreciation of how lucky I am. I think I am more empathetic and I understand that not everyone thinks like me. It is important to try and work together with others and communication is the most important part of that. I would tell someone who was preparing to study abroad to keep an open mind, try new things, and relax because it will definitely be frustrating at times. In the end, the learning experience is definitely worth it, even if you don’t learn what you were expecting to learn.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
After coming back from China, I plan to use what I learned from my trip whenever I deal with people who come from a different background than me. I want to always be open to new experiences because they always teach me something about myself. As far as Chinese goes, I want to continue to study the language to the best of my ability and improve both my speaking and comprehension. Because of the opportunity to study abroad, I realize the importance of learning about other cultures. I hope to develop a better understanding of multiple cultures so that I can put myself in other people’s shoes and work really well with others. I also know that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, and so I hope to one day return to China again so that I can improve the language even more.