My name is Chaya Cassell. I am a rising sophomore from Indianapolis, Indiana and I live in McGlinn hall here on campus. Currently, I am majoring in Chinese and Political Science here at the university, but my studies in both these areas began long before even high school. My parents home-schooled me all the through middle school and I spent many of these years learning Chinese off and on from a variety of teachers, including my mother. In high school, I developed a deeper interest in studying Chinese and decided to make it my focus in college. Outside of my studies, I enjoy spending time reading, swimming, and having great conversations with friends. As this is my first visit to mainland China, I am very much looking forward to this experience and am extremely grateful for the opportunity.


I began taking Chinese learning more seriously once I realized that a complete grasp of the Chinese language and culture was necessary for full engagement with China. China’s global influence is growing and I would like to be in a position to build on my understanding of China. The SLA grant is important to me because it provides a wonderful opportunity to accelerate my Chinese studies through the full-immersion experience. This summer session will bring me closer to fluency more quickly. Additionally, as a political science major, it will be helpful to get an inside perspective on its current society, history, and government for the purposes of analysis and further studies of East Asia.


My primary hope is to achieve a greater level of ease with speaking and reading Chinese. I am sure that the rigorous curriculum will help me get there. My secondary aim is to observe and learn about the culture and environment of Beijing through our cultural excursions and visits to Chinese companies. Through these experiences, I hope to come to a better understanding of the local Chinese perspectives on work, civil society, and global events. This may be ambitious for a first year student, but my hope is to at least begin exploring the traditional and modern Chinese attitudes, as well as their influence on the systems in place.

Finally, I hope to form and establish connections in China in the further hope that I can revisit these in the near future. I am considering devoting a greater portion of my undergraduate (and perhaps graduate) studies to China, and having connections there will allow for more rich and efficient dialogue.


1. At the end of the summer, I will have acquired greater Chinese speaking proficiency by fully engaging in conversations in the language curriculum and outside of it in all daily activities.

2. At the end of the summer, I will have familiarized myself with Chinese culture and society (at least within the Beijing region) through careful observation and questions.

3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to read and write more extensively in Chinese by reaching at least the second-year level.