Douglas, Chinese Academy Student

For Douglas, who is very passionate about learning Chinese, the Academy enabled him to push his language skills to a higher level.

“At first after signing the pledge, the first emotion that you feel is that this is kind of strange. It's not necessarily that the difficulty hits you right away. It's just that wow, this is something I'm not really used to and something that I'm definitely going to have to get used to. Signing the language pledge, the event in and of itself is kind of ceremonial. And I think that students here really need an attitude of willingness if they're going to be successful in sticking to the language pledge. After you get past the first three, four, five days in language, speaking language, it certainly gets much easier.

“I'm really passionate about my Chinese language. And so my reason for coming to the Academy was more personal. I really wanted to kind of push my language skills to the limit and this has the best name out there for a language program, so that's why I chose this program specifically.

“Learning a second language is extremely important, especially with our modern world and the increasing globalization. So particularly, I want to be a part of that and a part of the changing world.

“They really do a good job of tying the language into the culture, which is especially important with Chinese in that they're kind of inseparable. And so they do a very good job both in the classroom and outside incorporating cultural activities, Tai Chi, for example, to supplement our language learning.

“I think the environment that the Academy provides is a necessary mid-step between high school and college in that we don't have the entire freedom of college students, but we do have more freedoms than we're accustomed to as a high school student. So this transition point I think is definitely necessary and definitely fulfilling.

“If there was a student who was interested in coming to this Academy, I would tell them that they need to be interested themselves—don't have outside pressures forcing them to come—because when they do get here, how they're going to be successful is if they truly want to improve their language. They need to have an attitude of willingness and be ready to accept the language pledge.

“The best part of the Academy for me was that last night, actually, we had a speaker come who's East Asian studies professor at Williams College and gave his speech entirely in Chinese, and that I actually understood 80%, 90% of what he was saying. It just really put what I've been learning here into use.”