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Modern Languages and Literatures
Edward Yonkers ’16
During high school I had learned primarily French, but for one semester I took a Chinese class outside of school. Once I got to Lake Forest, I decided to continue learning Chinese. When sophomore year came around, I started getting ready to go abroad. Originally I was going to do the Beijing program in Autumn and the Botswana program in Spring. But after I started the application process for Beijing, I found out that every year Lake Forest offers 2 students a chance to have a full year in China, fully enrolled with a monthly stipend at a top end university of the student’s choice. I figured a year to master Chinese would definitely pay off in the long run, so I decided to take that route instead.
When I first arrived in China, the first thing I noticed was how different the community of international students was compared to Lake Forest. People from countries like Kazakhstan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and even countries you might never find in America like North Korea and Iran were all living together happily in one building. I also had plenty of time outside of class to pursue the study of things like Tai Chi, Wu Shu, and tea culture. I made countless Chinese friends, and had plenty of time to travel all over the country thanks to the 5 week winter vacation and China’s high-speed train system.
What is different about the Chinese Government Scholarship program from the Beijing program is that you are on your own in every aspect. There won’t be any other students from Lake Forest with you, and the school will not be holding your hand through the process. Because of this, my first month in Wuhan, China was a period of intense adjustment and at times fear and anxiety. But after I had adapted to the lifestyle, the fruits of my experience in China included higher confidence, independence, friends from every continent, a deeper understanding of the world outside America, and conversational fluency in Chinese. When people ask me how China was, I always tell them, “well, there’s one thing for sure, and that’s that I’ll be going back.”