(June 15, 2010) New College of Florida’s budding program in Chinese Language and Culture celebrated a huge success this week when it was announced that seven students from the College have received grants from the Chinese government to study in China next year. Four students will be fully funded for the 2010-2011 academic year, and three will be studying in the spring 2011 term. All have received full scholarships, including tuition, board and stipend. The grants were made through the Chinese government’s partnership with the Confucius Institute at the University of South Florida.
This is the first time that the Chinese government has offered a full scholarship through USF’s Confucius Institute. The Institute is a collaborative effort with China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International (“Hanban”) under the Ministry of Education and Nankai University, which is USF’s designated partner university. All seven New College students who applied were highly recommended by Dr. Zhaoying Han, the director of the Confucius Institute, and all were accepted.
Kathleen Brindley (Tampa, FL), Rebecca Christoforo (Andover, MA), Ariel Hensley (Ridgewood, NJ) and Maya Praff (Ellicott City, MD) will be studying in China for the entire 2010-11 academic year, Kathleen at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and the others at Nankai University in Tianjin. Both are among the top universities in China. Jacob Long (Marco Island, FL), Lacey Sigmon (Valrico, FL) and Dara Osher (Pompano Beach, FL) will attend the spring 2011 semester-long program at Nankai University.
All of the students are either studying or concentrating in Chinese Language and Culture at New College. Rebecca has been to China multiple times but not for language training. Jacob was in Beijing last January, and Lacey will be there for an intensive language program this summer. Ariel lived in Taiwan for a year as a high school exchange student.
The program is led by faculty members Dr. Jing Zhang and Dr. Aijun Zhu, both of whom led the students through the complex application process. For the last two years, Fulbright Teaching Assistants from China have joined them to help build the new program, which was established as a formal area of concentration in the fall of 2009.
“I am so proud of our students,” said Zhang. “We’ve had a great of interest in our program, not only because it is unique and new, but also because the College doesn’t currently have any other areas of concentration that deal with Asia. China has been attracting a lot of attention in recent years, and in that respect it’s quite a pragmatic language. Other students have been attracted by Chinese ancient culture and literature.” She noted that thirty-five percent of the students have studied or plan to study in China.
Zhang said that while Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages to master because of its unique writing system, it is the artistic, calligraphic aspect of the lettering that students enjoy most. “They have quite a sense of achievement with the characters,” she said, “and find it both challenging and satisfying.”
Zhang added that the study of Chinese requires strong motivation and discipline, which New College students have aplenty.
“These are the most motivated students I have ever met anywhere,” said Zhang, who taught at Tufts University prior to joining the faculty in the fall of 2007. “I really enjoy the student and research-centered environment here.” To keep the enthusiasm going, she sponsors a Chinese talent show in which students have produced skits in Chinese, played Chinese instruments (self-taught) and recited classical Chinese poems. She encouraged the students to establish a China Club on campus to promote Chinese culture and help themselves learn the language. She has also connected them with members of the Gulf Coast Chinese American Association and taken them to see Chinese films at the Sarasota Film Festival.
The success of the seven Chinese scholars follows the recent announcement that May 2010 graduate Sarah Brown was awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Chinese in Nanjing this coming summer. Last summer, Kate Boeyen, who has just completed her third year at New College, was selected to participate in the “30/30” Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and China’s Ministry of Educational commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the two nations. Anthony Circharo, a May 2008 graduate, traveled to China under a Fulbright grant.
The Chinese Language and Culture program at New College offers courses at all levels of Chinese language as well as courses and tutorials on Chinese language, literature and culture in English translation. Language courses are offered regularly, and cultural content courses change each year covering both surveys and special topics.
The USF Confucius Institute is one of 64 Confucius Institutes and 25 Confucius Classrooms in the United States. USF is the first university in Florida and the first major public research university in the Southeastern United States to establish a Confucius Institute. The Institute assists the educational and business communities in Tampa Bay to develop closer ties with China through Chinese language instruction and cultural exchange, offers Chinese language and culture classes and focuses on educational initiatives related to tourism, trade, and sustainable healthy communities.
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