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Study program helps American students learn Chinese

Last night, the K-State Chinese Language Study Program collaborated to share their experiences with the cultural exchange program.
It was an evening that highlighted the combination of traditional Chinese dresses and jeans, and the differences in clothing were not the only way that participants shared their differences.
"Being able to communicate and form friendships with more students on campus who are from a different background is my favorite thing about being in the Chinese Language Study Program," said sophomore English major Rachel Smith.
Smith, who is a Chinese 1 student, said she thought learning Chinese gave her a way to connect with the outside world, and bridge language and cultural gaps in a world that is not as distant as it used to be.
The program is starting its fifth year and currently has 27 students taking classes for credit. The Chinese Language Study Program is a partnership program in which both American and Chinese students are able to share their expertise with each other to help improve their language and grammar skills.
With the help of a "language partner," students are able to not only learn and refine each others'' languages, but also partake in traditions, holidays and customs.
"Although we''re still a relatively small program, our students have had a lot of success and have received some amazing opportunities," said Wei Wu, director of the K-State program.
Students who have gone through the program have unique experiences, including four K-State graduates currently working in China, as well as two others working for Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in Washington, D.C.
The students who were present at Wednesday''s event were able to mingle and mix, and after a traditional Chinese meal were able to listen to several speakers, all of who gave their speeches in both English and Chinese.
Kristin Mulready-Stone, assistant professor of history specializing in the history of modern China, kicked off the night by sharing some of her experiences. After giving an introduction in fluent Chinese, Mulready-Stone translated her own words.
"Chinese isn''t an easy language," she said. "But it isn''t impossible either; once you have a foundation, you have to build on it, just like any other language."
Mulready-Stone who has years of extensive experience with East Asian studies and a degree from Yale University, said learning mandarin is much more accessible to students today than what it used to be.
"More and more students are recognizing the importance of learning how to speak Chinese," Mulready-Stone said. "Most Chinese people know how to speak English, and it''s in our best interest to be able to reciprocate and bridge that cultural gap."
Participants in Wednesday''s event were also able to hear a student''s perspective on the study of the Chinese language.
"Going to study abroad in Beijing was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime," said Andrew McGowan, graduate student in agronomy.
McGowan, who has studied Chinese for the past four years, was able to travel to China to participate in a study abroad program.
Although he was there to continue his education, he was able to experience a variety of Chinese traditions including one 10-hour-long trip to a village that he made to attend a Chinese wedding.
"There were parts of China that I was able to experience that I would have never been able to experience by just hanging out on my campus," McGowan said.
Senior Qinxi Fan, senior in accounting and international business, shared her thoughts about coming to the United States from China, and how her involvement with the program has helped her develop her English skills.
"Working with my language study partner has helped me improve my English, and it also helped me make friends," Qinxi said. "Even though we meet for one or two hours every week to work on our languages, we also hang out, watch movies, and have a good time being around each other."
In addition to the speakers, students were able to hear a presentation from the K-State Chinese American Cultural Exchange, formerly known as the Chinese Culture Club.
"One of our goals is to expand on campus and increase involvement in Chinese cultural studies," said treasurer Alina Scalora.
Scalora, who graduated from the University of Kansas in 2010 with a degree in international studies, is currently taking Chinese classes at K-State in an effort to continue improving her language and grammar.
"You don''t have to be fluent in Chinese, or even know anything about the Chinese culture, as long as you''re willing to learn," Scalora said.
As the evening wrapped up, all participants took a ceremonial pledge in which they promised to continue their dedication to learning the Chinese language.
"This program is a wonderful way to share our knowledge and culture with each other," said Wei Wu. "I am delighted at the success that we have had, and I know that we will continue to dedicate ourselves to improving our language and sharing our traditions."