Sydney, Chinese Academy Student

Sydney's school doesn't offer Chinese language classes, so the Academy has enabled her to pursue learning Chinese on her own, alongside other students who are passionate about learning the language.

“I came to the Academy after doing a lot of research, because I just really wanted to dedicate some time to intensive language learning, because my school doesn't actually offer Chinese years as a language course. I did some research online. I looked at different testimonies and I did some comparisons.

“I made a chart and just compared a bunch of different places. I was considering actually going to China, but this was the most cost-effective. And it was immersive in a way that wasn't necessarily present in other places. You take language classes, but you can get language learning and exposure, even in things like your cultural classes, and just in speaking to other people, because everyone is speaking your target language. The language part has helped me improve, because people speak really quickly. Everyone who is here is usually a native speaker, so hearing someone speak that quickly, your oral skills just really improve.

“I remember, in the first three days, being really frustrated, because people were speaking faster than expected, and I didn't know how to say anything to respond. And it's rewarding when you're able to explain something that you didn't think you could, or answer someone else's question. We have a dictionary, and people are constantly flipping through it, trying to figure how to say things.

“Teachers, or RAs, or your other students will tell you how to say things, and it gets easier as time goes on, and if you keep up with it. So, even though it's a challenge in some ways, it's rewarding to stick with the pledge. I've done a lot Tai Chi, and I think I like that best, mainly because I've done it so frequently. It started off as a culture class, and then I was waking up before 7:00 for, like, a solid week, just so I could go and practice before breakfast, which I never saw myself doing. It's not a dance, it's martial arts—but it's such an interesting combination of the two. And you use a fan, and we have this wonderful song that everyone on campus knows, because they always see us outside with our fans.

“Last week, we had a field trip. We went to Middlebury College. And there was a dinner they had at the end. And it was, basically, all the Chinese teachers there, and Chinese students there. And we all sat together.

“And so, someone who you could actually speak Chinese much more fluently than me—we had a conversation with her, and she complimented me on my language skills. And she was really surprised to hear that I've only started this year. So, to think that I can keep up with people, and that my language skills have improved that much, that's something that I'm really proud of.”