Vanessa studied Chinese the summer of 2012 in Suzhou, China as a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) participant and was introduced to a whole new world. In addition to learning Chinese, Vanessa found studying traditional Chinese music helped her develop a greater appreciation for Chinese culture.
“I was very interested in traditional Chinese music because of how ancient all the instruments are but they still are a relevant part of Chinese culture,” she said. “At first it was difficult to reconcile the China of the past to the bustling and modern country it is today. However, through music I could better comprehend how all the facets of Chinese society are still influenced by the past.” To continue her exposure to Chinese music Vanessa conducted a project on traditional Chinese music and instruments and currently takes traditional Chinese dance classes.
Vanessa has learned a lot from her music classes but credits her wonderful host family for helping her learn to Master the Chinese language and culture.
“My host family was very kind and I felt like staying with them was a home away from home,” says Vanessa. “They made me feel very welcome from the moment they saw me. My host sister always invited me when she had activities with friends and we even studied together because she had her finals coming up. We went shopping together, bought bubble tea together, and even went to karaoke. I remember riding the bus with her for an hour so we could go to this bakery that had great Asian pastries.”
Vanessa believes her Chinese language skills are valuable and plans to use them for the rest of her life.
“I volunteer at a Chinese school on the weekends, teaching Chinese to younger children which helps me improve my Chinese,” says Vanessa. “I would like to get a medical degree and practice medicine in Asia and the United States. I would also like to work with the organization Doctors without Borders. Speaking Chinese will be beneficial to any career I choose in the future.”