Name: Shuyi Feng
Location of Study: Beijing, China
Program of Study: China Summer Language Program in Beijing
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising sophomore at Notre Dame pursuing a double major in Finance and Chinese. I’m currently living in New York, but I was born in China. I haven’t been back since I left at a young age but I’m excited to return this summer, especially to experience being in a different area than I’m from. I’ve studied Italian and French previously, and speak a dialect of Cantonese at home but have had no experience with Mandarin before arriving at Notre Dame. My semesters of Chinese here was significantly more intensive in comparison to previous languages I’ve studied.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA grant is important to me because it allows me to advance in fulfilling the requirements needed to pursue a Finance/Chinese double major. Being able to experience a summer in Beijing will help me get in touch with my culture in a more enriching way. By meeting and interacting with natives, I will experience their way of life which will give me a deeper understanding of the customs and values in China. This gives me the gateway to develop a greater sense of cultural awareness which I identify as a valuable skill which will help me succeed in Business, particularly working internationally. Speaking Chinese in a more fluent and natural manner will inspire a sense of conversational confidence. This grant will allow me to develop the linguistic skills necessary to pursue opportunities in a country with a large economic presence.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I want to be a part of a global organization with business in China as well as the US. The ability to speak naturally will be advantageous to me in terms of my future career goals because communication is integral in global projects. As a result of this summer study abroad, I hope not only to learn Chinese to a greater proficiency, but also to understand the culture more. Obtaining such skills will make me more well rounded as well as more open minded. Living in another country will force me to adapt to the culture and social norms there and make me reflect on American culture and social norms. By interacting and communicating with people in China in their language, we have a chance to see things from a different perspective. I want to gain greater knowledge on aspects of life in China including social, economic, and political issues. This opens up possibilities in discussion of these issues to gain perspective and fully understand them. Integrating business in different countries will require keeping these issues in mind and utilizing such an understanding.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to understand (and tonally pronounce correctly) double the amount of work/phrases I know now.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write, and listen enough Chinese to advance to a higher level or two at Notre Dame.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to read articles in Chinese newspapers and understand the majority of it.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to demonstrate a mastery of conversational skills at a speed closer to those of natives.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan to hit the ground running by before going to China by reviewing vocabulary that I have learned so far and practicing speaking with others who are taking Chinese. Since this program does not allow us to speak English, it will push me to express my thoughts using words and phrases I have already learn as well as interest me in adopting a wider set of vocabulary to call upon. Since I am Chinese, the natives, rather than try to practice their English with me, will speak to me as if I am a native which will make me more inclined to converse back in Chinese. I hope to take full advantage of this opportunity by fully immersing myself in the language. I want to gain the confidence in speaking Chinese that is integral to communicating in the professional world.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
My first week in Beijing consisted of a lot of adjusting. I was pretty jet-lagged so almost every day I was exhausted by 10pm and naturally woke up at 5am. On the first day when I arrived, one of my teachers from Notre Dame who lives in Beijing took a couple of us to dinner at a delicious hot pot place. Although the quality of this meal was high, I quickly learned that most of the easily accessible food in Beijing is not suitable for the American stomach. Since I’m typically not a picky eater and usually opt for what’s convenient, I’m still adjusting to having to make careful decisions to plan my meals. Another thing I still haven’t gotten used to is Beijing’s air, which is definitely more polluted than I had expected. On the first couple of days, I had to use the face masks that we were given because it was a little difficult to breathe, especially since the the weather was hot and humid. It was pretty funny because you could easily identify the foreigners by the masks.
After our weekend of settling in and taking our placement tests, we were quickly thrown into the intensive program the following Monday. We have four hours of class a day, consisting of two lectures and two drill classes, and a thirty minute one-on-one conversational session in the afternoon with a teacher. There is a quiz and homework due every day as well as a test every Friday. We have also signed a language pledge stating that we would solely speak Chinese during our time here (which is proving to be rather difficult with my second year vocabulary).
On the weekends we have trips organized by the program; the first was one to the Great Wall. They picked a section of the Great Wall that was relatively rugged so the scenery was pretty impressive; I assume it wasn’t as crowded as other sections of the Wall would be. The Saturday we made the trek was incredibly hot so it was rather tiring but the breathtaking view made it totally worth it. The Sunday after the Great Wall, I visited Summer Palace with a bunch of other NDIB students. I thought it was a beautiful combination of nature, such as lakes and garden, and traditional styled palaces, temples, pavilions, and bridges. We also went on a Dragon Boat ride! I hope to be able to visit a lot more of Beijing’s well-known sites, not only those that showcase China’s traditional culture but also those that allow me to experience its modern-day culture. I’m very thankful and excited for the opportunity to experience China!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
This second week in Beijing, I explored some of the neighborhoods near Peking University. There are a lot of places where you can get delicious food just a quick 5 minute cab ride away. (The cabs are very inexpensive and super convenient here!) I’m also starting to get more familiar with the quick pace of our coursework.
This past weekend, our program had planned for us to go hiking on Fragrance Hill but several of us decided to check out the Pearl Market instead. There were a lot of little shops set up selling silk products, clothing, electronics, makeup, jewelry, bags, and a lot of cool souveniers. We got to experience a little bit of the bargaining culture of shopping in China. The most effective tactic seemed to be to act only slightly interested in the products. Every time I began to walk away from a shop, the sellers would begin to yell prices that became lower and lower as you walked further away. I was surprised the Pearl Market was indoors and in such a large building, but I thought the experience was very interesting. I am hoping to get a chance to explore more of the city and see more of life in Beijing.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Last weekend we had a shortened class schedule so we could visit Hangzhou and Shanghai! In Hangzhou, the Topsun company gave us a presentation and a tour of their factories as well as other companies that worked with them. We also got to eat dinner at a restaurant by the beautiful West Lake. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Shanghai, a typhoon was also heading towards that area. We went on in the rain to visit Yu Yuan and the Jade Buddha temple. Yu Garden exhibited a combination of traditional architecture
and lively fish ponds. At the Jade Buddha Temple, we had a Buddhist style meal, which meant it was vegetarian. The trip gave us a little bit of a break to get away from the classroom and see different parts of China, thanks to the donors that made it possible. Since this is our fourth week, our midterm is at the end of this week so I am expecting a lot of days of studying ahead.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
I’m at the halfway point of this eight week trip in Beijing now. We just took our midterm exam and this past week of review has made me realize how much vocabulary and grammar we have learned in just four short weeks. I’ve also gotten to understand more of Chinese culture and visit places that showcase a lot of their distinct culture. This weekend we went to a famous tradition tea house where we were not only able to taste quality tea and try special small snacks but also watch performances, including Beijing opera and Kong Fu. They did a good job showing us forms of entertainment from different areas of China. The audience consisted of a spectrum of people, but there were a lot of foreigners and Chinese families. This tea house must have been a very popular place because the place was very packed with a lively audience that not only came to watch the performances but also to meet and chat with friends. Although this past week was very busy as we spent a lot of time studying, people seem to be a lot happier to be done with our midterm and starting the second half of the program.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
On the weekend of our fifth week ,we went to the Art district called 798, which was really interesting because it was a really hip and trendy area that consisted of galleries, small shops, and street vendors where artists and local artisans showcased their work. We were able to take pretty cool photos and buy great souvenirs. I was glad that I got the chance to use the Chinese we have been learning in class to talk to the people there about their work. There were also a lot of really good coffee shops and restaurants. I had the most delicious sandwich on focaccia bread, yum.
During the sixth week, a group of us went to the Forbidden City and the Lama Temple. At the Lama Temple, there were a group of young children who wanted to practice their English so they offered to give us a tour and give us a little background information. In return, we practiced our chinese and asked questions in Chinese. The 5 of them were all around the age of 10 and I was very impressed with their pronunciation. I hope that by the end of this program, my Chinese will be even better than their English.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
I can’t believe it is already my last week in Beijing. In the beginning I felt that eight weeks was an extremely long time but the past couple of weeks has gone by so quickly! This week we are all extremely busy in preparation for our final exam with covering all the material we have learned here. The teachers with our program at Peking University have helped me a lot and I think that my Chinese has definitely improved significantly. I am so glad to have met so many cool people and to be able to share the experience of visiting so many famous places in Beijing with them. Being in Beijing for so long has definitely allowed me to gain more insight on China’s culture and customs. I hope to return to China and see the other many different and distinct areas of it and compare it with the lifestyle I have experienced in Beijing. Although I am sad to be leaving behind everything I have gotten so used to in the past eight weeks, I am excited to return to America and share all the things I’ve learned. 再见中国！
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
The teachers in our program at Peking University utilized an Eastern style of teaching that required us to do a lot of memorizing and reciting new vocabulary words. A lot of us were not accustomed to this learning style and struggled a little bit. However, I feel that this learning style tailored to such a quick paced summer program since we had to learn so many new words in such a short amount of time. I felt that after a couple weeks, I got used to the routine. I thought it was quite effective in helping us drill in this new vocabulary and build a foundation to apply grammar points. During these eight weeks, I not only had the chance to be a tourist for such an extended amount of time but also feel more and more like a local as I got familiar with Peking University’s surrounding neighborhood. I definitely feel that I understand more of China’s culture. I was able to compare the Southern Chinese culture that I was familiar with from my family and that with what I encountered in Beijing, which was Northern China.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
Although this summer program was academically challenging, I felt it was very rewarding because now I know significantly more vocabulary and grammar points than eight weeks ago. I am happy to be back in America and jumping to third year here at Notre Dame. I improved my speaking skills and developed intercultural skills by spending so much time interacting with locals in Beijing. I’m so grateful to all the Peking University teachers for helping me practice speaking during our one-on-one conversational sessions. I will definitely miss chatting with them because they made me feel so comfortable by being so patient and keeping me engaged by telling me stories and encouraging me to tell them stories. I will try to keep in touch with them and keep up to date on events in China.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
In the future, I hope to return to China to see different parts of it. I will use the intercultural skills and knowledge of their customs that I acquired during this summer to interact with Chinese people in other areas. Since attending this program allows me to go on to a higher level of Chinese during my sophomore year, I can take Chinese literature and culture classes earlier. I am interested in going into the Business field and want to use my knowledge on Chinese language and culture to supplement what I learn in my Business classes to be able to work with international businesses in the future. As a result of this summer experience, I’ve grown both personally and intellectually and have a better sense of how vast the world is as well as how distinct the lifestyles of people in different countries are from each other.