Careers for Chinese Language Students
I started studying Chinese when I participated in the Calvin semester
abroad in Beijing during my sophomore year of college. When I went, I
couldn't speak a word of Chinese (although I did learn how to say hello on the plane ride over). The semester was life-changing for me in many ways. First, aside from a year that I'd lived in the Netherlands when I was two, the semester in Beijing was the first time I'd been outside of North America, so it was a great chance for me to get away from the environment I'd grown up in and see a different part of the world. Second, I found that I really liked learning about China and learning a new language. I knew that I wanted to learn more about East Asia when I got back to Calvin, so I added a second major in EA Studies to my Philosophy major.
After graduating from Calvin, I spent a year in Beijing studying Chinese and doing some other things on the side. Aside from working as a tutor, I also volunteered with an organization that helps the children of migrant workers in China's big cities, acted in a few movies, and applied to MA programs back in the States. I ended up going to Stanford University, where I took courses in Chinese history and religion and also started studying classical Chinese. After a year in California, I got a scholarship from Stanford to go to Taiwan to study and do research for a year. I ended up liking Taiwan so much that I stayed for an additional two years. During that time, I took a few graduate courses in Chinese history, religion, and
philosophy, and worked as a translator, tutor, and travel writer. It was a great way to take a bit of a break from full-time study and to explore another society in the Chinese-speaking world.
In fall 2011, I returned to California to begin a PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley. It's a lot of work (especially since I've also started studying Japanese), but overall I'm really enjoying
myself. I'm planning to focus my studies on East Asian religions and history and hope someday to teach at a university, either in the States or somewhere in Asia. I'm sure that I'll return many times to East Asia for
further study and research.
When I think back on the path that my life has taken thus far, the experiences that I had at Calvin loom large. I'm amazed sometimes when I think about the large number of courses related to East Asia that Calvin offers, given its relatively small size. And the faculty have a breadth and depth of expertise that is quite impressive. Add to that the fact that profs at Calvin generally are accessible, generous with their time, and skilled teachers, and you have the perfect environment in which to begin your own exploration of East Asia.
I really cannot say enough about the quality of the program in East Asian studies at Calvin. I hope that the school maintains its commitment to the study of East Asia and that undergrads at Calvin will take advantage of the many opportunities that Calvin offers, both in Grand Rapids and abroad.
Currently I live and work in Beijing, China as a program manager and
consultant for organizations that engage with Chinese children and youth. I regularly use the valuable Chinese language skills I acquired at Calvin to conduct meetings with local and foreign partners to design, implement, and monitor projects for children and youth. Having also attended the Calvin Semester in China, I feel very prepared to live and work in China and within a Chinese cultural context. Many of the projects I help conduct teach Chinese children and youth skills such as character development and
life skills. Therefore, I am also blessed to not only have the opportunity to teach these skills, but to do so confidently in Mandarin and through the faith modeled by my mentors at Calvin. My time spent studying Chinese at Calvin not only taught me how to communicate in Mandarin, but it also taught me how to understand the Chinese within their own cultural context. The language instruction at Calvin is about much more than just lessons on vocabulary and grammar. It also teaches invaluable gifts on how to communicate and share beliefs with a people outside of one's own culture. I am very thankful for all of the
mentors and teachers I was blessed to study under at Calvin."
I studied Chinese at Calvin for four years. I initially registered for Chinese class for the challenge. I wanted to attempt something that others wouldn’t even consider. My interest in China matured, however, while studying in Beijing during Calvin’s semester abroad program. I developed a voracious appetite for anything related to China. My engagement with China became more than just an adventure. It became a way of life. After graduating from Calvin and studying at business school, I moved to China.
Since moving here I have been involved in several endeavors. I was involved in the legal translation and selling of Christian literature. I opened up Western markets for a leading Chinese automotive supplier. I managed a foreign-invested wheel business from nothing to $10 million in Sales in three years. Currently, I am the General Manager of a Michigan-invested automotive supplier. We produce high quality precision plastic components for automotive customers around Asia.
Chinese language ability and knowledge of the Chinese culture has been integral to each position I have held. Just as important, however, is the ability to manage expectations of the foreigners I interact with, whether they be customers, colleagues, or friends. If Calvin only taught me Chinese or other related Asian Studies materials, it would not be enough. Fortunately, the liberal arts education at Calvin provided me with an excellent foundation in multiple disciplines that has allowed me to continue to engage China for nearly a decade.
Majoring in Chinese at Calvin brought me over to Harbin on a Fulbright scholarship in the fall of 2009. My Fulbright focused on Manchu ethnic and linguistic identity in twentieth century China. As part of my Fulbright, I also studied Chinese through the CET Harbin Program. After my Fulbright concluded in the summer of 2010, I took on a resident assistant job for CET Harbin where I continue to work. My work not only allows me to encourage students and watch them develop an interest in Chinese culture and language (and cuisine!), but also allows me to take Chinese language courses, develop friendships with Chinese co-workers and students, and travel throughout the
country. Living in China has also provided me with a better understanding of contemporary Chinese society, a better understanding of the nuances and intricate relationship between Chinese culture and language, and has shown me time and time again how hospitable the Chinese people are.
While I'm unsure at the moment if I will be continuing my studies in Taiwan, Hong Kong or mainland China next year, I am eager to continue to study the rich culture and the fascinating language of the Chinese people."
After Calvin, my degree in Asian Studies led me to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer with the US Department of State. I’m currently serving as a Vice Consul in the Consular Section of the US Consulate in Shenyang, China. I spend my workday providing vital services to Americans living overseas, conducting visa interviews, and participating in public outreach events. Every day I have the opportunity to use the Mandarin language skills that I acquired through my coursework at Calvin, my Beijing semester abroad, and my summer internship teaching English in Yantai, Shandong.
It’s good to hear from you, and good to know that Calvin’s Asian Studies program continues to go strong! I spent some time looking through the Asian Studies website and am truly impressed with how many people are really engaging with the things Calvin taught us and making an impact in the world. What an encouragement!
My road since Calvin has been a bit non-traditional, to say the least. So it’s not very easy to say clearly what I am doing, even though the foundation at Calvin has absolutely been at the core of it all.
The various aspects of my current work include
continuing to pursue my Masters in Asian Studies from George Washington University by doing field research in China for my thesis on foreigners in Chinese church-state relations, teaching English to Chinese kids with a deeper motivating factor and an expressed intent to promote character development, and working with college-aged foreigners from Africa, Asia, the
Pacific Islands, and elsewhere who are studying in China to encourage their spiritual walks and develop their leadership potential so that they can discover and fulfill their God-given vocations wherever they may end up after school. So that’s quite the array of factors!
In the past, I also received a full scholarship from the Chinese government to continue my language study at Liaoning University in Shenyang, and back while I was still at Calvin I was a part of the Beijing Semester Program and I taught with ELIC one summer (an opportunity I saw you are rightfully promoting on the website).
So I am convinced there’s something in all of that which must be of some value for current students as they consider how to put what they are learning to use. I remember struggling with that while I was still at
Calvin, knowing that I was enjoying the Chinese and the Japanese studies but not understanding how that was going to be a part of my own future. Of course, there is no way I could have realized then all the opportunities our heavenly Father would continually provide! But I would love to be an encouragement however I can.
Loving God means loving people. Loving people means understanding them. And for me, studying Chinese at Calvin was the beginning of it all.
A 2009 graduate with a degree in Biology, studying Chinese was originally about fulfilling my foreign language requirement, but it soon became the fulfillment of a passion I didn't know I had. My studies piqued a curiosity and fascination that I found irresistible, and in 2010 I moved to China to teach English, finally experiencing for myself one of the world's most fascinating places. A year and a half later, still in China and planning for a long-term commitment here in this country that I love, I have found the foundational education I received at Calvin to be priceless. It's what first brought me here and, with the language skills I gained and continue to develop on my own, what has successfully kept me here.
China is often unknown because many assume it to be unknowable. A completely different language and culture are barriers that seem insurmountable, but even just two years of study at Calvin dismantled those barriers and has opened innumerable doors for me here as I strive to connect and share my life and Christ's love with my Chinese students and the Chinese in my community. I can try to meet my students and neighbors where they are, speaking and connecting to them through their own language and culture, and that has power beyond measure. Demonstrating to the Chinese my love for this place, as seen in my studies of their language and culture, carries great appreciation and respect; my efforts to absorb this country's every facet has earned me the right to speak directly into the lives of my friends and neighbors here and the difference is amazing: I don't just exist here, like so many expats. I live here.
Opening my mind to China, then opening my life to the Chinese--an incredible gift that God placed in my life, enabled by my studies at Calvin. Won't you try the same?
For what other Calvin graduates have done with their knowledge of Chinese and Japanese, please click here.