IU Hamilton Lugar School sophomore Gini Jeffries spent her summer speaking mostly Mandarin Chinese through two immersive programs. For three months, Jeffries studied abroad at National Taiwan University in the Chinese Language Division (CLD), through a scholarship from the Taiwan Huayu Bilingual Exchanges of Selected Talent (BEST) program. When she returned to Bloomington in June, she completed one year of Chinese language training in only eight weeks in the Hamilton Lugar School’s Language Workshop, where she and other Indiana University students in the program committed to only speaking Chinese.
The Taiwan Huayu BEST program awarded Jeffries a $4,000 scholarship and allowed her to earn 12 credit hours upon program completion.
“It was a really great experience,” said Jeffries, who is majoring in International Studies with a focus in East Asian Languages and Cultures. “Because NTU is the most prestigious school in Taiwan, it attracts many different people and types of students. I had students from all over the world in my class.”
While in Taiwan, Jeffries and the other scholars in the program also participated in the Hands Together service learning program and served as volunteer tutors at a local elementary school. Jeffries talked with students in various grades at Yunlin Elementary School to give them the opportunity to practice their English-speaking skills, while Jeffries practiced her Chinese.
Jeffries said her experiences gave her confidence.
“Immersion is a big part of learning a language. Having to rely on Chinese really helps you get used to speaking it and it improves your confidence,” she explained. “Relying on it to live can be overwhelming but helps in the long run.”
When she returned from Taiwan, Jeffries started class in the intensive IU Language Workshop, which is a required part of the IU Chinese Flagship program. She said that going from one immersive language program to another with no break was tiring, but her experience in Taiwan helped her adapt.
She also shared that one of the benefits of these programs are the networking opportunities.
“Especially at Indiana University, there is definitely a sense of networking,” she said. “Yea-Fen Chen, the director of the Chinese Flagship program, is a very important person in the Chinese language world, so there is a great opportunity to network and get to know the professors. You also meet a lot of people who are also going into Chinese speaking fields.”
Jeffries said she is interested in teaching in the future and would love to work abroad in Taiwan.
“I’m still figuring out my path, but I want to gain a business proficiency and use Chinese in my career,” she explained. “I have always found Chinese language and culture interesting and have always wanted to learn more.”