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Study Chinese in China

By Chad Springer | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2013-08-09 16:28

You are welcome to share your China stories with chinadaily.com.cn

My story encompasses a mission to study Chinese in China and how it led me to starting a successful education business called China Immersion - www.chinaimmersion.org.

I stepped off the airplane onto China’s soil on June 1, 2007 and wanted to do nothing but focus on learning the Chinese language. Months were spent at a private language institute studying Chinese. Although I had previously studied Mandarin Chinese for two semesters at an American university, I felt I was starting from the beginning. I can still remember the excitement and frustration trying to communicate with my Chinese host family. The family and I would converse after dinner, each member constantly referencing their dictionary and generous use of hand gestures were used to stumble through our sentences. My journey to study Chinese in China had just begun.

 

Chad Springer [Photo provided by the author]
I have always been a competitive person and to study Chinese in China was just another challenge to me. After three months in Hebei province I continued with my studies at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics (TUFE). Once there I was presented with an abundance of opportunities pivotal in my success to study Chinese. Language speaking competitions, social events, school clubs, I wanted to participate in them all. The first day I arrived at campus, I along with my other foreign classmates were eager to practice our spoken Chinese and acquire new friendships. Everyone was curious as to why I chose to study in China. I wanted to immerse myself in an environment to learn about the language and culture of a country so foreign to me.

It was with this type of determination and curiosity that solidified my decision to study Chinese in China and ultimately master the language. After two semesters at TUFE my diligence rewarded me with a recommendation by a teacher to be a guest on local television and radio shows for foreigners who study Chinese. I loved the feeling of using Chinese to communicate my thoughts to an audience of thousands. Once the Fall semester started in 2008, my dear mentor Professor Zhao Xinyu, took me under his wing and began to train me for a life changing event. It turned out to be a major milestone in my adventure to study Chinese in China.

Lacking in stage experience and performing skills I took the opportunity to compete in TUFE’s Chinese speaking competition for foreigners. With the guidance of my mentor I placed an honorable third place out of fifteen contestants. I was eager to gain more experience speaking Chinese to a crowd of people. Thereafter Professor Zhao informed me of an even bigger Chinese speaking competition. This one being for all foreign students in Tianjin; including eight universities and a hundred contestants in all. The competition was set for late December, giving myself six weeks to prepare. My next challenge in my adventure to study Chinese in China had arisen.

I chose a suitable prose written by Zhu Ziqing titled “Cong cong.” Hours upon hours were spent reciting, perfecting, recording, listening, and repeating. Frequent meetings were held with Professor Zhao leading up to the competition. We worked on pronunciation, emphasis, flow, and tones. When one mistake was cured, a new one would arise leading to a feeling of dejection which would flow through my body by the end of each meeting. Professor Zhao would always provide encouraging words, which would fill my mind and send me home with determination. I told myself no matter the outcome of the competition, I wanted to study Chinese in China and this experience was necessary to succeed.

On the day of the competition my alarm clock rang at 5:30 in the morning. I along with my other competing classmate met with Professor Zhao and took a taxi to the host university. I was told news reporters and camera crews would be on site along with supporters from every competing university. It was hard for me to fathom what to expect on stage. Will I remember my lines? What if the host asks me questions? How will I respond? How long did my fellow contestants study Chinese in China for?

Chad Springer (left) [Photo provided by the author]
There were about fifteen finalists in total from various countries around the globe and I was number five in the lineup. One by one the contestants before me completed their performances, which consisted of a prose recital and talent segment. The host finally announced my name and I walked on stage to face the hundred people in the audience. I smiled confidently, but felt butterflies in my stomach as I began. My diligent preparation had paid off as the words naturally flowed from my mouth. The rhythm of the words and accompanying music were in sync and I could see Professor Zhao gazing proudly at me. My performance ended with a guitar solo which embodied the spirit and adventure of my journey to study Chinese in China.

Once I stepped foot off stage I felt a feeling of relief. It was as though a heavy load of bricks had been taken off my back. In a daze, I waited for the other ten contestants to finish their performances. The moment came to announce the winners of the competition. Silence filled the auditorium and eyes glanced back and forth between the contestants. Certificates were awarded starting from last place. Fifth place… fourth place… third place… I held by breathe as second place was announced. I was disappointed my name wasn’t called, for surely I couldn’t have performed better than everyone else that day. The name of the first place winner was read by the host. I didn’t comprehend what was said and had to ask someone. “He said your name,” replied the contestant standing beside me. In that split second my body felt weightless as I floated on stage to claim my first place prize. My year and a half adventure to study Chinese in China and all the hours spent training for the competition were worth those few minutes I performed on stage. My mouth hurt for the rest of the day as I couldn’t refrain from smiling. That moment was AWESOME!

Four and a half years have passed since that great day. I kept true to my goal to study Chinese in China, receiving 10 out of 11 on the HSK Chinese proficiency test. Over the years I seized opportunities that exposed me to environments that would allow myself to further understand the Chinese culture and improve my Chinese language skills. My original goal to study Chinese in China has shifted to conducting business in China. The past few years have consumed my time in the educational field. I operate a business called China Immersion, which aims to provide foreigners the same amazing opportunities I encountered along my quest to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese. China Immersion offers several programs catering to foreigners wanting to study Chinese in China, gain international work experience, and understand the Chinese culture. For anyone who is seeking an educational adventure in China I want to extend an invitation to check out our programs. They consist of Teach and Study, Chinese Immersion and China Internship. We provide the opportunities you need to be successful in China too. Check out www.chinaimmersion.org for more details. Thanks for reading my article and I wish you the best in your future endeavors. Cheers!

Chad Springer is from the United States and has lived in China for the past six years. He enjoys reading, networking, travelling and studying Chinese.

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