Chinese language student Jeannie Ruffley credits an immersive learning environment for helping to improve her language skills and giving her the confidence to study abroad in China.
Applying to the Language Academy started out as a suggestion. Throughout my whole life, I’ve wanted to learn how to speak Mandarin and return to China. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to attend, and before I knew it, I was packing for the first month I had ever spent away from my family.
When I first arrived at the campus, I was unsure if I had made the right decision. I was mildly homesick and surrounded by people I didn’t know. This program is not for the faint of heart when it comes to new situations and intense language learning. I was really scared and nervous about signing the Language Pledge, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle the initial stress of not being able to speak English. But the Language Academy doesn’t throw students into the deep end. The first day is spent speaking English in order to prepare you for signing the Language Pledge and learning to say key phrases, such as “How do you say this in (insert target language here)?” Once I moved past my fears and truly engaged in immersive life at the Academy, 24/7 Chinese came so naturally to me, and was even fun! I found myself growing very close to my peers, especially my classmates, as we bonded over struggling to speak immersive Chinese together.
During my stay at the Language Academy, my Chinese improved significantly and more quickly than I could have ever imagined. When you’re thrown into an immersive environment—and can speak only in your target language—you really don’t have a choice about whether or not you’ll learn new things or improve your comprehension. It just happens. That is the power of an immersive environment.
Being required to speak only in Chinese opened up a whole new world I wasn’t aware of. Before, I could barely understand any Chinese and was extremely shy when speaking to native Chinese speakers. At the Academy, I found I was able to make friends while speaking only Chinese, laughing and joking with them as if we were speaking English. When I look back, I don’t really think about how hard it was speaking Chinese, I think about how memorable all the students and teachers made my experience. Months later, I still miss all the people I got to know at the Academy.
The Language Academy boosted my confidence in speaking Chinese and significantly improved my language proficiency. I have always been very hesitant to go to China, because of my inadequate communication skills. Now I’m proud to say that I will be traveling to China this summer to study abroad. I’ve made my dream of returning to China a reality.