When most students think of summer, the beach, jobs and time with friends come to mind. For one senior, this summer will hold much more.
Senior Amanda Slowikowski will be spending six weeks of her summer in China through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program. Just two weeks after graduation Slowikowski will leave for the Jilin Province of China to live with a host family and immerse herself in the Chinese language and culture.
“I really want to be fluent in Chinese and plan on minoring in it in college along with Spanish,” Slowikowski said. “A six week summer program dedicated entirely to the Chinese language sounds amazing, and I’m sure I’m going to learn a ton over there.”
NSLI-Y was started in 2006 in hopes of improving Americans’ ability to communicate internationally and to create lifetime interest in languages and cultures of foreign countries in the youth of America, according to NSLIforYouth.org. NSLI-Y offers scholarships to students in seven languages, giving each student accepted a complete scholarship, paying for all travel costs, room and board, and tuition.
“I don’t think that I will ever get another chance to travel to another country completely free,” Slowikowski said. “When I heard about it, I knew it was an experience I couldn’t pass up.”
While participating in the program, Slowikowski will attend 120 hours of class at the high school attached to Jilin University, which is the number-one ranked school in the Jilin Province, according to NSLI-Y. The Jilin Province is located in Northern China, and Changchun, the city Slowikowski will stay in, is the capital and largest city of the province.
“Northern China is a lot different than other parts of China,” Slowikowski said. “It has Russian and Korean influences. I’ve never been exposed to these cultures before, so it will be a new experience.”
Slowikowski has some prior knowledge of the Chinese language and culture.
“I’ve taken Mandarin Chinese I and II through North Carolina Virtual Public School,” Slowikowski said. “I have also gained a little Chinese vocabulary through the China Partnership.”
Slowikowski has participated in the China Partnership, a program run through the high school that connects First Flight High School with Meicun Senior High School in Wuxi, China, since her freshman year. She has hosted Chinese students in her home during their visit for two years, and during the spring of her junior year, Slowikowski traveled to China for about two weeks with other members of the Partnership.
“I think (my previous visit to China) will help me prepare to stay with a host family, but other than that this is a completely different experience. Everywhere I went with the China Partnership was with classmates and in different hotels,” Slowikowski said. “We also went to very touristy places, and on this trip, I will be with my host family the whole time and do what normal Chinese teenagers do.”
Slowikowski found out about the program when Jane Shipman, English teacher and lead teacher of the China Partnership, told her about it.
“Ms. Shipman told me (about the program) the night before the application was due. I spent all of the next day during free times in classes to complete my application,” Slowikowski said. “I also spent a lot of time on the application after school that day.”
Shipman knew this program was a perfect opportunity for Slowikowski when she first heard about it.
“As part of China Partnership, I had seen her growing interest in Chinese and had a former student who had success with it in the past,” Shipman said.
Slowikowski is looking forward to her summer abroad and wants to learn as much about China as she can.
“I’m excited about the entire program. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn a language from native speakers, be immersed in a completely different language and make friends that I’m sure will last a very long time,” Slowikowski said. “I think I might be most excited about the host family. Having a host family that doesn’t have to speak English will force me to communicate in Chinese and will give me an extra incentive to learn it.”
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