Critical Language Scholarship Program | Caitlyn Carpio
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Caitlyn Carpio

Cait­lyn Car­pio is an alum­na of the 2016 CLS Chi­nese Pro­gram in Suzhou, Chi­na. She is cur­rent­ly a junior at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill pur­su­ing a B.A. in glob­al stud­ies (Asia and inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics) and minor­ing in Chi­nese. After grad­u­a­tion, she hopes to pur­sue a fel­low­ship to fur­ther study or work in Chi­na so that she can gain a deep­er glob­al per­spec­tive and under­stand­ing of Chi­nese cul­ture, lan­guage, and busi­ness. Cait­lyn is active­ly involved as a res­i­dent advi­sor on her cam­pus and as a mem­ber of the 2017 Duke-UNC Chi­na Lead­er­ship Sum­mit Exec­u­tive Team. When she’s not in class, work­ing, or study­ing at the under­grad­u­ate library, she enjoys watch­ing UNC bas­ket­ball, devour­ing cake pops, and trav­el­ing with friends and family.

Why Chi­nese?

Although I had nev­er stud­ied Chi­nese before high school, I had a num­ber of Chi­nese friends in ele­men­tary and mid­dle school and had always want­ed to learn more about Chi­nese cul­ture and lan­guage. As a musi­cian and visu­al learn­er, I was attract­ed to Chi­nese due to its tonal and visu­al attrib­ut­es. While I knew that learn­ing Man­darin would be dif­fi­cult, I real­ly want­ed to chal­lenge myself. Thus, when I found out my high school offered Man­darin, I eager­ly signed up. Since then, my moti­va­tion to con­tin­ue pur­su­ing Chi­nese has become much more per­son­al; I have seen first­hand how my knowl­edge of the lan­guage has unlocked incred­i­bly mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships and connections. 

Vis­it­ing Chi­na for the First Time

Before the CLS Pro­gram, I had been learn­ing Chi­nese lan­guage, pol­i­tics and cul­ture, but had nev­er actu­al­ly trav­eled to Chi­na. It wasn’t until I land­ed that I learned study­ing abroad would not only improve my lan­guage and cul­tur­al knowl­edge, but would also chal­lenge me in ways I had nev­er been test­ed before. My expe­ri­ence on the CLS Pro­gram expand­ed my world­view, grew my sense of empa­thy and under­stand­ing expo­nen­tial­ly, increased my con­fi­dence, and unlocked a myr­i­ad of mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with peers and Chi­nese individuals. 

Fur­ther­more, the human con­nec­tions I made in Suzhou have giv­en me even more moti­va­tion to con­tin­ue study­ing Man­darin and learn­ing as much as I can. Liv­ing with a host fam­i­ly for two months, get­ting to meet their numer­ous fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends, and meet­ing with a Chi­nese lan­guage part­ner for at least an hour every day, gave me amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to gain insight into the lives of my Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, as well as the chance to share my insights about life in Amer­i­ca. I built long-last­ing friend­ships, gained unfor­get­table mem­o­ries, and learned how to serve as a cul­tur­al ambassador. 

Find­ing a Lit­tle Sister

One of the sweet­est and most impact­ful rela­tion­ships I devel­oped was with my host fam­i­ly. As the youngest of four, I had always want­ed a younger sib­ling but it didn’t come to fruition until this sum­mer when I met my 12-year-old host sis­ter. She worked tire­less­ly to improve my tones and answer my numer­ous ques­tions, quick­ly gain­ing the nick­name Teacher Wang” in the house. She joined me for night­ly walks around the neigh­bor­hood, spon­ta­neous­ly start­ed hula-hoop com­pe­ti­tions in our liv­ing room, and helped me prac­tice cal­lig­ra­phy on the week­ends, turn­ing her room into a muse­um for our masterpieces. 

Once, ear­ly on in the pro­gram, she asked me what my favorite bev­er­age in the U.S. was. I explained to her my love for hot choco­late, and she sur­prised me after I got home from class the next day with a pot of hot choco­late wait­ing on the stove for me. I was shocked and choked up to find that my host lit­tle sis­ter had gone out of her way to research online and pick up ingre­di­ents from the gro­cery store by her­self just to make my day and make me feel more comfortable. 

Although I was anx­ious about liv­ing with a host fam­i­ly before I left for Chi­na, I was blessed to have a host fam­i­ly that tru­ly pro­vid­ed a home away from home, were my ulti­mate cheer­lead­ers and chal­lenged me to step out­side of my com­fort zone. They helped me learn to leave my pride at the door, and that I could only grow my lan­guage skills if I allowed myself to make mis­takes, be cor­rect­ed, and to ask for help if I need­ed it. 

Per­son­al Growth and Build­ing Relationships

Man­darin can be intim­i­dat­ing at first glance, and I still find many of its aspects chal­leng­ing today, but learn­ing it is an extreme­ly mean­ing­ful and impor­tant endeav­or. Study­ing Man­darin is not only an oppor­tu­ni­ty for great aca­d­e­m­ic growth, but rich per­son­al growth and is incred­i­bly rel­e­vant, no mat­ter what your major is, due to the increas­ing inter­con­nect­ed­ness of the world. I think learn­ing about oth­er people’s cul­tures and ways of life is essen­tial to cul­ti­vate mutu­al under­stand­ing and empa­thy, and gain­ing pro­fi­cien­cy in Man­darin is a key to con­nect­ing with over 14% of the world’s population. 


Alumni Profiles

Caitlyn Carpio
Caitlyn Carpio
Chinese 2016
Suzhou, China

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Posted Date

March 28, 2017