Cody is studying in Suzhou, China this summer on a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.
As the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) summer program in Suzhou is coming to a close I’m having a hard time summarizing all the experiences that we have had. We started our two month journey at the beginning of June and since then we have surely come a long way. While I’ve definitely been challenged to focus on Chinese more than ever before, I’ve also had a lot of fun exploring the different cities and further learning about China’s unique culture.
A few aspects are particularly notable about the program. The first being the dedication of the students and professors to the language pledge and how it has immensely improved all of the students’ Chinese proficiency. Although all of my classmates are American it has been more than rare to hear English spoken in our program. As a result of speaking Chinese 24/7, I’ve begun to understand the language in a new light and sometimes I even dream in Chinese-which still freaks me out every time! It’s quite exciting!
Along with the language immersion I have been able to travel to a few new places in China that have completely blown me away. Last weekend I took an overnight train with a few friends to the beautiful mountains of Huang Shan and spent two days there hiking. Saturday night we slept in a hostel on top of the mountain and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch one of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever seen in my life. Some of our tutors journeyed alongside us giving us ample opportunities to further practice our Chinese, and when the weekend was over it was safe to say that everyone had a great time.
Altogether the CLS summer program has been very interesting and a great experience that I will surely never forget. While we have definitely had our ups and downs dealing with the high intensity of the classes, I have no doubt that in the past two months I have rapidly improved my Chinese faster than ever before. I feel very fortunate that God’s given me this awesome opportunity, and I look forward to hearing about more WKU Flagship students participating in the CLS program in the future.