In this photo, I’m in an “Asian squat” and striking a quick shaka at an enormous waterfall at the Taihang Mountains (太行山) in Anyang. We had the opportunity to take a 3-day, mini vacation to Anyang, Henan (河南, 安阳市), from our extremely rigorous Chinese intensive program in Beijing. This was one of many excursions organized by CET, the academic program I attended in China this past summer. What excited me throughout the intensive school week—besides the homework to be done after 5 hours of class each day—was the planned excursions at the end of each week, whether it was seeing an acrobatic performance by some of Beijing’s finest or walking the Great Wall of China.
On top of our demanding school days, which were from Monday through Friday, we had to maintain a very, very strict language pledge for the duration of the 8-week program. This strict language pledge proved to be the main driving force for the expansion of my Chinese vocabulary. Instead of resorting to “Chinglish,” the substitution of English words for unfamiliar Chinese ones, I would find other creative ways to describe what I was trying to say. In doing so, I was able to avoid being written up by the teachers (If you got 4 strikes you were sent back to your home university in the States) and find alternative ways to express myself while learning new words. Besides the language pledge itself, there were 60 other students with the same goal of raising their Chinese language skills who have helped push me along the way.
At the end of the 2-month intensive program, I tripled my vocabulary compared to when I first arrived, experienced Chinese culture first hand, ate delicious, authentic Chinese food, and made lifelong friends whom I still keep in touch with today.
Edwin Wong is a second semester Chinese Flagship student and a junior at UH Manoa seeking a double major in Finance and Chinese. He hopes to live and work for a while in China or Taiwan so he can better his Chinese language and cultural understanding, while gaining experience in the business world on an international level.