Cole Stecker, Form V, earned the U.S. Department of State's National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship to study in China this summer, including six weeks in Shanghai. In 2017-18, NSLI-Y had a 19.5% acceptance rate, doling out about 660 scholarships for an immersion experience in host countries whose population speaks Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, or Turkish.
“Cole is a proud product of our Chinese curriculum,” says Chinese teacher Gary Kan. “We nurture fluent speakers and citizens who are motivated to engage globally and ready to hit the ground and run the moment they get off the plane in China. As opposed to rote memorization of vocabulary and traditional grammatical drills, we prepare our students to succeed in completing meaningful and authentic tasks we think they will encounter in the real world.”
Cole traveled to China as part of Haverford’s Global Studies program, which planted the seeds for his application to the NSLI-Y scholarship. “Our travel-study program to China provides students with a wonderful opportunity to develop cultural competence and empathy,” said Kan.
The six-week Chinese language immersion program will include community activities and cultural experiences, including cooking, art, and martial arts, as well as 120 hours of classroom instruction. Students apply and are selected based upon their personal interests, academic performance, and awards or recognition. Evaluators also consider applicants’ motivation for language learning, character, and cultural awareness. Finalists are chosen following an interview with local program volunteers.
Traveling to China two years ago with Haverford’s global study program was so enjoyable. We had unique experiences, staying with one family in the city of Kunming and another in a small farming village. Instead of going to the restored (and crowded) portion of the Great Wall, we hiked a mountain for two hours and were the only people on this remote section of the Wall. I still stay in touch with my host families, and I hope that in my return to China I will gain fluency in Chinese. Cole Stecker, Form V
“Traveling to China two years ago with Haverford’s global study program was so enjoyable,” said Cole. “We had unique experiences, staying with one family in the city of Kunming and another in a small farming village. Instead of going to the restored (and crowded) portion of the Great Wall, we hiked a mountain for two hours and were the only people on this remote section of the Wall. I still stay in touch with my host families, and I hope that in my return to China I will gain fluency in Chinese. I want to become bilingual, and to meet new people.”
Cole has been studying conversational Chinese for the past two years, along with some typing to become familiar with the characters. As a junior in Chinese III, he is just beginning to learn to write Chinese characters. “I think Chinese is a gateway to emerging fields in science and business,” he said. “Studying Chinese has taught me how to communicate with other people – I talk with my friends in Chinese outside of class to become more comfortable with it.”
Mr. Kan, Chinese teacher and native speaker, tries to make the language less intimidating for students. “Mr. Kan tells us that in a Chinese conversation, we may not know every word the person says. First, we should first pick out each word we understand, then formulate an idea about what they’re trying to communicate, and respond to the best of our ability. I would recommend Chinese to anyone!"
According to its website, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program was launched in 2006 to promote critical language learning among American youth. It seeks to develop a cadre of Americans with advanced linguistic skills and related cultural understanding who are able to advance international dialogue and compete effectively in the global economy.