Karnatz, Madlen

Karnatz, Madlen

Name: Madlen Karnatz
E-mail: Madlen.J.Karnatz.1@nd.edu
Language: Chinese
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:

My name is Madlen Karnatz and I am currently a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame Studying Finance and Chinese. I was born and raised in the heart of Chicago, and I attended St. Ignatius College Prep where I began my study of the Chinese language. While at Notre Dame, I have been a member of the Varsity Track and Field Team, and I am the Head Events Coordinator of the Consulting Consortium. I love to travel and cannot wait to experience China!

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

The SLA Grant is important to me because I will be able to receive an educational experience both in and outside of the classroom that will benefit both my academic and future career goals. Thus, this experience will be crucial to my long-term academic goals because I plan to return to Notre Dame and continue to intensely study the Chinese language and culture as I work towards fluency and earning complimentary dual majors in Chinese and Finance. By participating in the Intensive Chinese Summer Language in Beijing program, I would be able to obtain my dual degree in four years. I intend to marry these disciplines in a career in international business. To achieve such a goal, I believe that I must master speaking, reading, and writing the language and developing a full understanding and first-hand experience of Chinese culture, values, and practices. Thus, I am honored to be afforded the SLA award in order to be able to purse and achieve all of my academic and long-term goals.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

Afforded by the SLA award, I expect to undergo an intensive Chinese language and cultural study over the course of eight weeks this summer. I would spend the majority of my days learning and practicing the Chinese language, realistically mastering two semesters worth of material by the conclusion of my stay in China. In addition to furthering my linguistic knowledge, fully immersing myself into the Chinese culture on a daily basis and through weekend excursions to various historical and famous sites would allow me to obtain an enriched experience and understanding of Chinese culture and ways of life. Immersing myself into the Chinese culture and devoting eight weeks to the practice of the Chinese language will tremendously improve my competency in the Chinese language. I currently struggle the most with listening comprehension and conversing in a naturally flowing dialogue; thus, we discussed how spending eight weeks in China is the best way for me to strengthen these skills, as I will be forced to engage in real-life conversation with the Chinese population around me.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of my summer study abroad, 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.
  2. At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be comfortable and eager to engaging in fluid conversation in Chinese, whether it be native speakers or fellow students in the classroom.
  3. At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have a real-life understanding and appreciation of Chinese cultural beliefs and practices, and be willing to take intercultural risks by engaging in cultural and linguistic interactions that are beyond my level of mastery and comfort zone.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

While in China, I plan to fully commit to only speaking the Chinese language, even in times where I struggle to find the right words to complete my thoughts. I will force myself to break out of my comfort zone and engage in real-world conversations with the people around me, thus making the most of my experience in China. I also plan to accept any opportunity to visit important historical or cultural sites in China, as to gain a better understanding of the traditions in China. I believe fully immersing myself for eight weeks in Beijing will be one of the most influential and rewarding experiences during my time as a student at Notre Dame, and it will be an experience that significantly impacts the rest of my life.

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

Last weekend we traveled to Shanghai and Hangzhou. Shanghai was great. It definitely seems like a place where I can see myself working someday. Thus, I’m glad I got to spend some time here but I really wish our whole program was based out of Shanghai.
Upon arriving in Shanghai, we all were extremely happy to be greeted by sunshine and blue skies. The buildings are incredible, most built within the past 20 years or so. We went had lunch on the 18th floor of a beautiful building in the middle of downtown. It was very good compared to the food we have been eating while in Beijing. Traditional Shanghai food tends to be sweeter…think sweet and sour/orange chicken type flavors. We had some great veggies, sweet and spicy shrimp and other delicious dishes. After lunch we went to Illy Coffee University, where we learned about the history of coffee and the Illy Company. I had two freshly made cappuccinos and gelato freshly made by an Italian woman that morning. It was so good, and much needed after not having coffee for the past three weeks. That night we went to a restaurant with the Notre Dame Club of Shanghai and incoming ND freshman from Shanghai. It was interesting to meet fellow Domers from around the world. The following day, we first visited the Yu Garden in the pouring rain from the Typhoon in Shanghai. The positive of being soaking wet in the rain was that we were literally the only tourists at the place, so that was awesome. And it looked kind of cool in the rain. After that we went to a Buddhist temple and toured around. All in all, it was a great trip and I cannot wait to return to Shanghai someday.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Visiting the Great Wall may have been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. After a long drive through the outskirts of Beijing, we arrived at the wall on a hot and sunny day. Before coming to China, I had imagined the wall as a long winding path through the country side of China, however, I was mistaken. The Great Wall is a HIKE. The portion of the wall that we visited was entirely an uphill climb through the mountains. Although it was quite the strenuous (and sweaty) experience, it was definitely worth it. The mountainous countryside of China is quite beautiful, and obviously much different than the bustling and crowded streets of Beijing. The Wall itself is just incredible to think about. Thousands of people risked and lost their lives to building the world wonder. Thus far, visiting the Great Wall was by far my favorite experience I have had while in China.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

We all knew before arriving in China that learning Mandarin is no easy task. This program has definitely reinforced and strengthened that mentality of hours. We spend most days studying Chinese from dawn until way into the night. However, our labor has definitely paid off thus far. In the three weeks that I have been here, I have become more comfortable speaking with the locals and become more confident in my ability to speak Chinese accurately and fluently. I am no where near the level I want to be, but I have definitely noticed some improvement!

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

This past weekend, some of my classmates and I took the subway to Yuan Ming Yuan, a beautiful famous spot in the midst of Beijing. Yuan Ming Yuan is a huge park filled with flowers and nature. There were many times in the park that my classmates and I were the only people in sight, granting us some very rare peace and quiet here in Beijing. While walking home from the park through the hustle and bustle of people on a Saturday afternoon, an old man kneeling on the ground with a small crowd of people surrounding him stopped us in our tracks. He was twisting and bending thick copper wires into impressive little bikes. As my dad is an avid biker, I knew this was just the thing that he would love. So I knelt down next to him and used my progressing Chinese speaking abilities to haggle with him until he agreed to sell me the bike for the price I wanted. Four weeks ago, I definitely do not think that I would have had the confidence in my Chinese to barter with the man on the street.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

After our fifth week in China, my classmates and I received the opportunity to experience the Beijing 798 Art District. This hip and trendy part of town is filled with art galleries, street vendors, and delicious restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops. The 798 was definitely a different type of cultural experience that we have had while in China. It was neat to use my Chinese speaking ability to communicate with the various artists and shop street vendors about their pieces of art and their lives as artists in Beijing. I also got another chance to practice my bartering skills while buying some souvenirs. Yet again, using my Chinese outside of the classroom has proven to me that my ability has dramatically improved since the beginning of the program. I am hoping in the last couple of weeks I continue to learn and grow both in and out of the classroom.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

My last week in Beijing was a whirlwind. With the stress of both the approaching final exam and preparing for our return to America, all of the students were busier than ever. Studying for a final exam on a full year of material that had been crammed into our brains in just 8 weeks was not an easy task. But, I was still confident in how much I had learned and our teacher’s confidence in our abilities also put me at ease. I cannot believe that I actually made it through 8 weeks of the program so quickly. My summer in Beijing seemed like an entire lifetime. I grew mentally, physically, and emotionally as a person, and I think I have changed for the better. I now have a deeper and more appreciative understanding China and the world for that matter. Additionally, by living in a completely foreign environment, I think I learned more about myself that I had ever known. I learned that I can be more self-confident, receptive to others, bold, outgoing, and willing to take risks. I’m ready to take on my life in America with these new-found qualities.

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Spending several weeks in China definitely had a greater impact on my Chinese speaking, listening, reading, and writing ability than I expected. After the completing the program, I can attest to the fact that immersion is without a doubt the best and most efficient way to learn and master a language. I met the goals I had set out before beginning the program, because I can confidently say that I have never been as confident in my Chinese speaking, reading, writing, and listening abilities as I am today. Although the cultural differences were plenty, allowing myself to adapt and understand Chinese culture was one of the most beneficial parts of my experience abroad.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

Overall, I definitely think that my summer experience abroad was an incredible opportunity. I have learned how to immerse and adapt to a completely opposite culture, which I think is an extremely important life skill to have. For someone considering applying for an SLA grant or preparing to start their own summer language study, I would suggest that he/she keeps an open mind and to tackle the experience day by day, as it can be very overwhelming at times. Enjoy it and allow yourself to learn!

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

My summer language abroad experience is just the beginning of my journey with the Chinese language and China itself. I will continue to study the Chinese language at Notre Dame, and I plan to pursue a career that will incorporate my knowledge of the Chinese language and culture.