Name: Peter Heneghan
Location of Study: Beijing, China
Program of Study: Duke in China
Sponsors: Liu family
A brief personal bio:
I’m a rising sophomore finance and Chinese major from Hinsdale, Illinois. I lived in China for three years when I was younger and enjoyed the experience of living in a different culture. I enjoy the study of languages having taken both French and Latin in high school, and the challenge of learning Chinese in college has been an exciting one.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
One of my foremost goals for college is to become fluent in another language, and this SLA Grant represents an important step in achieving this goal. The world is becoming “flatter” by the day and I think that the ability to communicate effectively in another language is critical for those entering the workforce. China is a rising global economic power, and I hope that by learning Chinese I will be prepared to take advantage of many opportunities in that part of the world in the future. Also, without studying abroad, I would not be able to complete the Chinese sequence offered at Notre Dame, and so I see this as an opportunity to not only improve my Chinese now, but to reach a fluency level otherwise unattainable in the future.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I hope to improve my speaking, reading, listening and writing skills in Chinese, and also to immerse myself in the local culture. Being in China’s political and cultural center will provide ample opportunities for experiential learning, whether that is in a conversation with a waiter at a restaurant or a conversation with a professor outside of the classroom. There is only so much one can learn inside of the classroom, and I think one of the great strengths of the program will be the conversations I engage in with locals and other students in Chinese.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will feel comfortable starting a conversation with a native Chinese speaker even though the level of the conversation may go outside of my comfort zone.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to converse with native Chinese speakers on cultural and political topics.
- 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 will be able to understand idiomatic expressions that aren’t necessarily taught in the textbook.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity to use my Chinese from day one, beginning with my taxi driver from the airport. I will try to engage in as many conversations as possible in order to give myself chances to both make mistakes and learn from them. Experience is the best teacher, and the best way to learn from this unique opportunity to live in Beijing for two months will be to get out and about; not just staying within the walls of the classroom and the dorm. I also hope to try and take advantage of local television and newspapers. While I may not be able to fully understand these mediums yet, the exposure and attempts at understanding will help me further my proficiency in Chinese.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
I have now been in Beijing for over two weeks and have been enjoying every minute of my time here. I am amazed at how quickly my Chinese has been improving. Every day we have class from 8 to noon, with the time being split up between a larger lecture class, smaller drill sessions and a one on one session, or “一对一”. During the afternoons we’re free to review and then study for the next day’s lesson. It’s a lot of work, but it really has been rewarding. Every day in class here is the equivalent to an entire week of Chinese class back at school, but the workload has not seemed too onerous. In the afternoon we also have time to meet with out language partner, or “语伴“, which is one of the cornerstones of the program. Each student is assigned a UIBE student (our host university here in Beijing) with whom we meet with for an hour each day. There is some structure provided via worksheets from our teachers, but for the most part we are free to talk about whatever interests us. Being able to speak with a Chinese college student every day really has helped my fluency, and I find myself using the grammar patterns used in class without even trying to. We have a test on Friday that I have to get back to studying for, although perhaps the coolest thing about studying in China is that in a way I’m always studying here, as every Chinese sentence is one small step closer to my goal of fluency.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
The past few weeks have really flown by. I’ve been so busy studying Chinese that I almost forgot to write my blog posts. I feel like my Chinese has improved tremendously over the past 6 weeks. I find myself holding conversations with taxi drivers and waiters every day. Our class has been intense but not so intense that I haven’t been able to experience life in China. Our program arranged a trip to Xi’An; seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors was an incredible experience and really demonstrated how powerful China has been throughout history, an often overlooked fact in the Western world. Xi’an was a lot different than Beijing; it may be a city of 5 million people, but is still a distinctively Chinese city, while Beijing has been influenced heavily by the west due to its political and economic importance. We have a test tomorrow so I’m going to have to cut this post short and get back to studying, but I’m looking forward to taking advantage of my last few weeks here in Beijing.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
My departure date from Beijing is fast approaching, and unfortunately I’ve spent the past few days feeling sick. Last night I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with strep throat. After a day of antibiotics I’m starting to feel better though, and I don’t plan on letting this get in the way of enjoying my last few days in Beijing.
Last Saturday I went to the Beijing National Museum. As someone without too much knowledge of Chinese history and culture, having never taken a formal class on the topics, I found the visit fascinating. The museum was crowded, but that’s to be expected when the air conditioned wings of the museum provided a refuge from the hundred degree heat outside.
Saturday night our program also hosted its “China Night”, where different students performed for all the other students and teachers. Some of the performances were genuinely impressive, especially my roommates singing performance. He’s Korean and I thought he had true K-Pop star potential.
Sunday was mostly spent resting up for the week ahead with our final projects and final exam this week. While I certainly don’t expect them to be easy, I feel that the program really has taught us so much that we will all be prepared. For now its back to working on my final project, a video of my time in Beijing.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
I’m writing this as I am packing in preparation for my flight tomorrow. We had our final exam on Friday, and the last few days have been a blur of studying and goodbyes to the many friends, both Chinese and American, that I made over the past few weeks here. Since our final exam I’ve been able to better appreciate how much Chinese that I’ve learned during my time here. I now find myself walking down the street and picking up bits and pieces of conversations in the same way that I would if I were in America instead of feeling insulated by the language barrier that always exists in a foreign country. While every foreigner is bound to run into difficulties, I really do think that I’m going to miss China when I return home. There’s an energy here that is hard to describe, but that is constantly felt. People call New York “the city that never sleeps”, and while that might be true, I think that China is the country that never sleeps. No matter the time of day you can see workers scrambling around construction sites, building the latest building or paving the newest street. I hope to return back to China some time in the near future and use the language skills that I acquired over this summer to be a part of this buzz of progress and development.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
After over two months out of the country, I’m finally home. While I certainly miss some things about China I’m enjoying my time back at home. I’ve really made a commitment to consolidating the gains I made in my language ability this summer, and have been reviewing our textbook every day to try and make sure I’m prepared to start Third Year Chinese in two weeks when I return to school. It’s been weird interacting only in English these past few days; in China even when speaking English I had become so used to throwing in Chinese words or phrases that it’s been difficult to remember that my friends and family here won’t understand what I’m saying if I speak Chinese. There are certain times where Chinese simply does a better job of communicating meaning than English, which I think is one of the benefits of studying another language; it makes you look at your native language more closely than you would otherwise. While I’ve enjoyed the blue skies and conveniences of life stateside, I look forward to my next trip to China where I could use my language skills more.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: