Name: Christopher D. Rhyne
Location of Study: Beijing, China
Program of Study: ACC Intensive Language Program
Sponsors: Liu Family
A brief personal bio:
I’m an African American sophomore at Notre Dame. I’ve just recently completed my first year with the Chinese program at ND. I’m a Psychology and Chinese double major. I’ve chosen psychology and Chinese because I want to go into international work or law enforcement. Having the ability to understand how others thing and speak another language will help me further my career goals and make me a better well rounded individual.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA grant is important to me because it allows me to further my dream of becoming a Psychology/Chinese double major. This grant also gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture and a beautiful language. To experience a world outside of Chicago and Notre Dame that will give me more wisdom and understanding into the lives and cultures of those who live differently. This experience will be a life changing opportunity that will allow me to gain a valuable skillset that I can bring to future employers and I can use with my friends from other Chinese culture. Having the ability relate to my friends and understand their culture sounds amazing. I’m grateful to the SLA grant for giving me this opportunity.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
What I hope to achieve from this summer abroad experience is to gain one to two years of Chinese. The program that I will be going into is an intensive summer Chinese language program. The acquisition of a year of Chinese will allow me to complete my double major and maximize my four years at ND. I intend to also speak with natives and maximize the host family that I will stay with to improve my Chinese. I hope to come back with the ability to understand and speak better Chinese with my friends. They often tell me that my Chinese is alright and I often can’t understand their speaking speed. But once I return I plan to be able to listen and speak really well.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to hold full length conversations at a natural speaking speed with my Chinese friends and with Chinese strangers.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to identify and understand 500-600 new Chinese characters and words.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to advance forward a year or two years in my level of Chinese.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to change my internal dialogue to Chinese and use Chinese to narrate the world around me.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan to hit the ground running by before my experience of going to China continuing and reviewing all the words I have learned throughout the year to further solidify my Chinese. In addition I am currently and will continue to make Chinese a part of my daily life by communicating with my friends from Chinese class in Chinese. Once I arrive I plan to talk to as many native speakers as I can. The program requires that we only speak Chinese during the duration of the program. So I’ll get experience with communicating with Chinese natives with the inability to resort to English promoting true immersion and forcing me to become creative with the language to express myself. Hopefully this will cause rapid language acquisition. In addition throughout my year in Chinese class I have made friends that will currently be in china during my stay. I will with them go out to eat and learn new words and speak a lot of Chinese to help solidify our friendships and also maximize our Chinese.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Week One – The week of truth and realizations.
I decided to wait a week to finally write my blog so I can give a through introduction and completely outline my first experience here in Beijing. The program I’m currently in is at a Chinese university called Minzu university of china or 中民族大学. This program is extremely intense. Except on weekends. Well I mean the weekends compared to the weekends feel extremely light due to the large amount of work we do everyday. To give you an idea of the amount of work we do in this program on average I have to study about 4-5 hours every day on top of a large amount of homework. This is due every day covering a weeks worth of material. Yeah I said it. A weeks worth haha. Every day I’m learning about 60-70 new words. In addition everyday we have a listening test. I would definitely recommend doing something similar like a listening test every day over about 10-15 words at the university but I don’t know if due to the intensity and speed it would work well with other classes.
This week was definitely a struggle (a bit difficult) for me. Getting used to speaking only Chinese is a lot of fun and but can be quite frustrating with actual native speakers because they often don’t speak as clearly as the teachers do and they speak extremely fast. Ordering food is extremely fun. Usually we just point to pictures and hope what comes out is tasty. I’ve become a much less picky eater after being in china a week than my entire life. I’ve learned that It’s Chinese custom to eat your food regardless to if you like it or not because in china there’s a lot of people who you interact with first hand who struggle to feel their families.
The reason this week was so difficult is because I was still jet lagged in addition to having to stay up really late. So I decided to sleep early and study early in the morning. Note to others: Bad idea. Well not as bad as not studying but trying to cram 60 words in 3-4 hours is quite difficult. I do have some interesting stories from this week though.
First thing I noticed is students in this program definitely operate on the motto “Work hard – Play hard”. Our first 2 days here people were going out to clubs and bars. I was actually a bit surprised. But it makes sense haha.
Another interesting thing I didn’t expect is that we can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. It was so strange. There’s a little trash can next to the toilet that you put your toilet paper after you’ve used it. But aside from that our living conditions are amazing. For china standards we’re living in palaces because our building that we live in used to be a hotel. So we have hotel rooms and hotel type service. It’s extremely convenient and well kept. We have air conditioning, own bathrooms with showers, and a flat screen T.V.
This living arrangement and just my current situation became a lot more apparent once after this first week in China and being exposed to China’s way of living. A lot of the people here have no idea of what they’re really missing. In addition at the university you often only encounter those who are rich. I mean filthy rich. However the moment you step off the campus especially at night you often encounter the homeless, the disabled, and those who have no place to sleep sleeping on the side of the sidewalk or nearby a hospital. And seeing this sight often causes two reactions with in me. The first and most immediate reaction is it makes me sad to know that my fellow man is sleeping on the side of the sidewalk and can often not afford enough to eat. It makes me want to give them money but then it makes you realize how dire their situation really is because your solution is only temporary. We’re often just giving him a fist as opposed to really helping him and teaching him how to fish despite his disabilities and luck. However upon later reflection a second reaction happens and it inspires me because these people have literally nothing but their bike kart with random things they’ve collected which I would assume would be used to make a shelter when it rains. Yet they still continue to move forward, they continue to live on regardless to what adversities they think they might face. This is inspiring because if they can also move forward, then I must make the most of the advantage that I have so that one day I can possibly not only provide a fish but teach others how to fish as well.
To my first week’s blog on a fun note though a woman asked me if my hair was real and where my parents were from. I had to tell her that I was American and that my parents we’re both American. A lot of people in china think my hair is quite attractive but at the same time don’t think my hair is real. It’s because they’ve never been exposed to the dreadlock look before and also my dreads are a bit on the smaller side so I can understand the confusion. Also I’ve never blogged before so I apologize for the tangents.
Next time I’ll tell you guys about my new Chinese family and friend. Till then!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
I apologize for being late on my second blog. Time really flies when abroad and studying really hard. So the week of truth wasn’t too bad but the work load began to ramp up in the second and third week. This second week was mainly composed of a lot of studying, homework, and little sleep. I’ve finally found a bit of free time between this fast paced experience.
The highlights of my second week however is that I went to my Chinese Family’s Home and The Great Wall. Which is called 长城 in Chinese. It’s pronounced Chang Cheng and the literally meaning is long city wall. I wish they would have warned us that climbing the great wall is no joke. On the way to the top we had to frequently stop to catch our breaths and rest a bit. By the time I made it to the top my legs were similar to jelly. After we made it to the top we took some pictures and such. You know normally touristy stuff haha. I then took a toboggan down for the first time. This was quite a interesting experience. I thought it was a lot of fun however I would have preferred to go but a guy was in front of me let his 3 year old daughter control the brake. After I made it down I brought a few gifts for some people back home. I brought some beautiful chopsticks and a cool hat haha. When I get a chance I’ll definitely add the photos I took to my blog.
Going to my Chinese Family’s house was quite a bit of fun. They invited me and another acc student to come to their house for lunch. This was a real Chinese table haha. They prepared mountains of food. I’ tried at least 5 new fruits. My new favorite fruit (which was previously apples) is now a Chinese fruit called 荔枝 It’s pronounced Li Zhi. This fruit is a bit interesting because in order to eat it you must first peal the outside and the inside has the consistency of skinned pear. The first time I tried it I thought it was a little strange, however after the second time eating it. It really grows on you haha.
Also due to my birth coming up my Chinese Family prepared for me a special dish called 老长面 Pronounced Lao Chang Mian. This is a traditional Chinese dish in which the entire noddle dish is one long noodle. The tradition behind this is that if you eat the really long noodle it’s supposed to be representative of your future long life. I thought I was really sweet. That they would go out of their way to make that dish for me.
Christopher D. Rhyne
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
This week has definitely been a interesting week and busy week. This is my third week within in the program and I’m beginning to see large improvements within my Chinese. It’s gotten to the point where I may not understand the words that are spoken but understand their meaning by context. It sounds awful but it’s actually quite cool haha. Also I am getting better at understanding Chinese menu’s If i were to go to a place I can at least tell you what i’m eating haha.
This week my birthday pasted while abroad. Everyone keeps asking what I did for my birthday. But all I did was study and sleep due to it being on a weekday. I also met a girl. Which for me is quite shocking because Chinese culture and from what I commonly hear is that Chinese women tend to not like African American men. But I guess that wasn’t the case with her haha. We’ve grabbed dinner a few times. She’s really sweet and has the cutest smile haha.
Also Today which is a Friday we finally had amazing weather. Although extremely hot (Close to 100 Degrees) we were able to actually see the blue sky and the clouds. Which is actually a rare site do to the frequent heavy pollution. Blue skies really make the city a beautiful place. Today we went to a museum and our program treated us to lunch. Later today we’ll go to a acrobat show and see people do acrobats.
I’m sorry I don’t have much for this week due to the week not being entirely over. During the weeks all we do study because they really pile on the work haha. The weekends usually is where the interesting things happen. Next week’s blog will probably be a few days late because after midterms our program will be taking us on a mid summer trip and I won’t have access to wifi. But after the trip I’ll be sure to tell you guys all about it haha.
Till Next time!
Christopher D, Rhyne
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
New Culture & New Experiences.
For our Mid-Summer trip we went to 洛阳 pronounced Luo (Lua) Yang. This is place is a beautiful city. Our trip entailed us going to see the Shaolin temple, climbing the side of a mountain, and going to the longmen grottoes. It was a really great experience. While on this trip I encountered some really strange traditions in addition to encountering my own effect upon a lot of the people there that are traveling from other parts of China. This trip for me personally had 3 highlights.
The first large highlight was that a lot people have really never encountered an a black american male before. While there I surprisingly didn’t get the ever frequent report of people uninvitedly touching my hair. As a result of a large portion of the Chinese population at the travel destination wanted to take my picture. This was honestly the most unreal experience I’ve ever had in my life. It started with one middle aged man around the age of 35 or so. He asked me to take a picture with him. I thought to myself It’s just a photo. Nothing could come of this. Boy was I wrong. We took a photo together and it was like when we posed. It was the equivalent of shining the bat signal into the sky! There was swarms of Chinese people coming towards me to take a picture with me. After the first photo people started sending their grandmothers and grandchildren over to take pictures. Plus I can’t say no to old people and babies. It was a little scary because they kept coming it was a steady stream of people for photos for about 10 minutes. After about 10 minutes my teacher got a little worried and told them no more pictures. I had become another attraction at the longmen grottoes. Afterwards when I will think back on that experience I know that many old people and kids will remember that day at the longmen grottoes and I have become a part of someone else’s life history.
The second highlight was I attended a Martial arts class. I never realized how difficult the moves really were. To get your body in the positions and to do it quickly is actually really difficult. By the time we finished the class I was drenched in sweat. At the shaolin temple we took a cable car up the mountain and then walked along the side of it. I saw real shaolin monks and gongfu. In addition I experienced and took photos that you often only see in magazines and such.
The third highlight didn’t even take place outside. Upon our arrival at the travel hotel me and friend started to wear the bathrobes. (They gave us free bathrobes as part of the package). Afterwards we recruited our other friends to wear bathrobes. We had about 7 people in bathrobes running around and dancing up and down the hallways. After that we used the bath robes to have a model shoot haha. Was really a lot of fun.
Christopher. D. Rhyne
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
This previous week seems to have gone by as a blur. The days are beginning to flow into one. But my Chinese is steadily improving. It’s something short of a miracle how much my Chinese has improved. On to more interesting things though. I’ve found a Chinese girlfriend. This actually helped a lot in my Chinese language improvement because she doesn’t understand much English and she speaks at a relatively fast pace. I had some really cool experiences this week. . I had the pleasure of the first time eating sweet and sour fish. This dish was the backbone of the year one and two books. When ever you were asked a question about food or cuisine your go to response was usually sweet and sour fish. This weeks highlights were actually more interesting.
Me and some friends went to a market to buy souvenirs and it just so happened that they had a concert in the same area as the market. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. I’m pretty confident I walked by at minimum 20 thousand people. There was seas upon seas of people going to this stadium to see this concert.
My Chinese host family also invited me and their friends to their Cafe to eat. My chinese family is loaded with cash. Their cafe was quite expensive but they hooked us up and gave us some nice prices. I saw a teapot with fire at the bottom so it keeps the tea warm. I was honestly amazed at this so simple but extremely fancy and practical contraption.
My final week highlight is me and some friends after vising my Chinese family’s cafe we went to the 2008 Olympic Stadium and saw the cube. This stadium is huge. During the visit we also saw this cool building who’s sole purpose was to look cool. This building continuously changed colors. I was genuinely amazed at the feat of engineering because the color change was gradual from layer to layer as opposed to the entire building changing at once.Also we lost a person during the visit. I never realized how hard it could be to find a foreigner in China. We spent probably an hour searching a large square looking for our friend. It was exhausting but all in all an extreme amount of fun.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
As I reflect back upon my language skills now in comparison to my classmates and my understanding of Chinese culture now in contrast to where my understanding was a few months ago. I begin to really understand the difference and the true value of the ACC program that I was apart of. The language pledge that I was forced to follow really gave me the complete experience. Prior to returning my Chinese speaking skills had improved to the point of being able to hold normal conversations with people and really feel like I can understand the though process of someone within the Chinese society. In addition my Chinese has also become really polished in a way that I am unable to describe. The tones and once sounded rugged and difficult now casually flow out of my mouth without a pause of thinking in front of them. I cannot emphasize how much the language pledge made a difference.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
Reflecting upon my overall summer experience. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I made amazing friends and we even now still keep in touch. In addition my Chinese feels amazing. It’s no longer this difficult class. The amount of work that I endured during this program has made my Chinese experience at ND so much easier. I recognize so many characters and my foundation for the language is solid. I have so many memories and experiences from this summer abroad that I wouldn’t trade for the world (ok, maybe for the world). I loved it and I can’t rave about the ACC experience enough. Send all your kids there!
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
At this moment I plan to use my language and intercultural competences to gain employment and work on a international level. To educate others who have not has the opportunity to go to experience the culture and may be ignorant to it. I also hope after going abroad again in the spring to become a language tutor.