iup june 2009 newsletter
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Letter from the Director Charles Laughlin, IUP Director, with Jan Kiely, Director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center
Dear Friends, This is for most of our current students the end of a remarkable year at IUP. During our farewell dinner on May 29, I reflected on the events of the past year, most of which are well documented in this newsletter, to give everyone a sense of what a special group this is. I suggested we express our collective gratitude for our superb teaching staff, which evoked a loud and long round of applause, which became a standing ovation that went on and on! That was an unforgettable moment. I also gave special thanks to certain students (a couple of whom slipped my mind at the time, so now I have a chance to make up for it!), like Alan
Gaskill for his musical and performative leadership, giving this IUP cohort its own special identity and atmosphere, Kitty Poundstone for her advice on health issues and constant pressure to get me to teach from my specialization, Chinese literature, notably through the organization of a literary translation group, Donald Debona for his advice on computer systems and equipment, Carol Liu who passed along lots of information about cultural events and even organized outings on more than one occasion, and Vivian Li whose elegant and rich newsletters document this year as well as anything. These are just outstanding examples; there are many other students whose initiative and enthusiasm beyond the classroom helped make this an extraordinarily successful year at IUP, and IUP and the rest of the students all benefited greatly from this. I wish those of you who are leaving all the best in your future endeavors, and remind you to make the most of your extraordinary Chinese ability, which you worked so hard to achieve. I am always available to write recommendations and certification letters based on all your teachers' comments on your work, and I hope you will continue to support the growth and development of the IUP alumni network! And for those of you who are staying, enjoy your break and I'll see you later this month!
| Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies ( IUP)
IUPeople Volume 2, Issue 7 June 2009
+ Nanjing trip
+ Working and IUP
+ Value of repeating IUP
+ First-year teachers reflections
+ Post-IUP plans
From May 8-10, IUPers and teachers took a spring trip to the vibrant city of Nanjing, visiting the many cultural and historical sites the city has to offer.
Zhang Wei and Sun Shuang happy to be in Nanjing
Cai Weisi, Genia Kostka, and Kerry Lee taking a break
Sun Shuang, Zhang Wei, Ma Lin, Qian Qian, Martha Kimmel, Sun Hongyi, Cui Yue, Zhan Shuang, and Xu Wei on Nanjings city wall
Seth Cook, Yuan Jing, Geoffrey See, and Will Meng
IUPers getting a tour of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center from the director, Jan Kiely
Li Li and Cui Yue on the road to the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum
Life Outside IUP by Vivian Li
IUPers come from all walks of life, from
budding filmmakers to political science PhD students. But regardless of their background, the daily grind of studying Chinese full time at IUPwaking up at 6 a.m. to prepare for 8 a.m. classes, or the careful weighing of each precious hour of potential study timeis familiar to all IUPers. The rigorous IUP schedule though still did not stop some students from working on the side. For example, IUPer Matthew Lowenstein answered an ad posted by a Beijing consulting firm in the Beijinger. Beginning in October last year, he worked 15 hours per week performing research, translation, and helping to facilitate the companys business plan. However, the responsibilities of work took time away from his IUP studies and he found himself tired and catching long naps during the day. Eventually, in February at the beginning of the spring semester, he decided to quit his job to concentrate solely on his Chinese studies. Alan Gaskill also had trouble initially adjusting to working while doing IUP. He taught guitar and played gigs around town, at times six or more shows per month.
Waking up for his 8 a.m. class after a night playing till 2 a.m. made him reconsider his Chinese study habits though.
The more things you have the better you have to manage your time. I had to learn how to work smarter, he said. At the beginning of the academic year, Gaskill would memorize how to write a new character, recite its sound at least five times, and break it down to the individual words in the character. However, when he was especially busy in March and April, he was forced to reevaluate his expectations and to adapt his study strategy to just learning how to recognize a new word and read it in context at least five times. Though he regrets not learning how to write the characters, Gaskill does not regret his decision to work. It [working] was part of the whole experience living in China, he said. Coming to China, he already planned to build a music career in Beijing. Working gigs around Beijing helped him lay the groundwork for life after IUP by establishing contacts and collaborations. Lowenstein does not regret either working while doing IUP. I would do it again. It was good to get basic business experience in China. The atmosphere is very different than in America, where its more relaxed. He suggested though that if he were to do it again, he would initially start working fewer hours to see how much he could handle, work only on the weekends, and not work on projects with fixed deadlines.
Gaskill also advises IUPers considering working on the side to work while doing IUP if you are fully committed to life in China.
Making the Most of IUP by Seth Cook
Coming back to IUP was something that I have wanted to do for many years. In fact, pretty much as soon as I left IUP in Taiwan, I had been wanting to return to take my Chinese to the next level. As it turned out, I had to wait until after Id finished my PhD and been working in Beijing for four years to finally make it happen. I already had decent Chinese before I started, but I knew that I still had a long way to go. Very few foreigners can conduct professional negotiations effectively in Chinese, or give a good presentation in Chinese, or fully comprehend Chinese television, radio and newspapers. I wanted to be one of them.
It took me awhile to figure out how best to make use of the wealth of resources available at IUP for learning Chinese. Although I had attended IUP before in Taiwan, it was a long time ago. I did remember though that I preferred to take fewer classes and spend more time absorbing material than the fixed pace of group classes often allowed. One of the beauties of IUP is its flexibility, so that you can really design your own curriculum once you have attained a certain intermediate level of competency. The teachers at IUP are not only very talented, dedicated and intelligent, but also extremely accommodating, and are more than happy to go the extra mile to help students glean all they can from their time at IUP.
The key for getting the most out of IUP is to figure out how best one learns and absorbs material and then arrange ones classes and studying to suit that. At first one inevitably has a passive approach to learning, simply going along with the pace and structure set down by IUP. But sooner or later one has to take a more proactive approach. For instance, I figured out after several quarters that I needed to take individual classes for most subjects, as this way I could set the pace, get the maximum amount of speaking practice out of a given class, and also focus on the areas where I needed improvement. Some subjects like classical Chinese, however, were best done in group classes, as the focus of such subjects is on comprehension of the material, not on individual expression.
I started building vocabulary lists for key topics of interest, such as environment, rural development, international relations, etc. I also collected key phrases for different topics, which I would try to memorize. The Chinese educational system places a great deal of emphasis on memorization, in fact probably too much so, but after a few terms at IUP I really grew to appreciate the value of memorization, particularly of sentences built around key vocabulary, phrases or sentence patterns. That way one builds an intimate knowledge of a given word, phrase or pattern which reflects actual usage by native speakers, especially if the examples are given by ones teachers.
I soon realized that I had to substantially revise my expectations for how much progress I could make in one year at IUP, and that my original goals were unrealistic. Not only is Chinese extremely difficult to learn, it is also very high maintenance. It truly is use it or lose it, and I regretted not maintaining the habit of studying after my first time at IUP in Taiwan. Learning Chinese is a lifelong endeavor, so better to be clear about that at the onset and enjoy the journey.
At the same time, a semester, a year or even a summer at IUP can substantially augment ones Chinese language skills and establish a solid foundation that one can build upon ever after. Looking around and marveling at how much progress everyone has made at IUP this year is proof enough of that.
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Congratulations to the selected 2009-2010 cohort of t