Critical Language Scholarship Program | Kiana Chan
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Kiana Chan

Kiana Chan is an alum­na of the 2015 CLS Chi­nese pro­gram in Bei­jing, Chi­na. She grew up in a sub­urb of San Fran­cis­co in a cohous­ing com­mu­ni­ty where she knew all eighty of her neigh­bors; she is cur­rent­ly a junior at UCLA, where she stud­ies geog­ra­phy and Chi­nese, works at the inter­na­tion­al cen­ter as an Amer­i­can Cul­ture and Con­ver­sa­tion Facil­i­ta­tor, and vol­un­teers with the Asian Pacif­ic Health Corps. When she isn’t study­ing, work­ing, or vol­un­teer­ing, she loves trav­el­ing, hik­ing, camp­ing, eat­ing, mak­ing new friends, and going to hot springs!

Why Chi­nese?

As a third-gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese-Amer­i­can, I’ve always had a cul­tur­al con­nec­tion to Chi­na. How­ev­er, I grew up in a house­hold that was most­ly Eng­lish-speak­ing, and I didn’t get the chance to for­mal­ly learn Man­darin until high school. My first time going to Chi­na was a four-week high school sum­mer camp where I met Chi­nese speak­ers from all over the world. This made me real­ize that know­ing Man­darin con­nect­ed me to so many peo­ple. When I returned to the US, I was deter­mined to become flu­ent so that I could con­tin­ue mak­ing mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with peo­ple all over the world! My dream is to pur­sue a career in pub­lic health, where I can use my Man­darin lan­guage skills to serve as a cul­tur­al bridge in clin­ics and com­mu­ni­ty health set­tings both domes­ti­cal­ly and abroad.

In a word…

My favorite Chi­nese phrase is 世界那么大, 我要去看看!” (Shìjiè nàme dà, wǒ yào qù kàn kàn!) It means the world is so big; I have to take a look!” I love this phrase because it encom­pass­es my wan­der­lust so well, and it helps me express my excite­ment about trav­el in anoth­er language.

When home­work isn’t work

I loved dis­cussing Chi­nese social issues at the din­ner table with my host fam­i­ly and explor­ing new areas around Bei­jing with my lan­guage part­ner. I learned that Chi­nese peo­ple are extreme­ly wel­com­ing and open to dis­cussing a huge vari­ety of top­ics. I asked my host fam­i­ly so many ques­tions part­ly because it was assigned as home­work, and part­ly because I was curi­ous! It gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain a deep­er per­spec­tive about Chi­nese soci­ety and beliefs.

A breath of fresh air

A group of CLSers and I went to a rur­al part of the Great Wall of Chi­na for the week­end and spent the night with a local fam­i­ly. Their home was very mod­est; we had no elec­tric­i­ty, run­ning water, or flush toi­lets for a night, but we brushed our teeth out­side, look­ing out at the most amaz­ing view of the Great Wall of Chi­na – a rugged, non­touristy por­tion of it, sur­round­ed by lush green­ery, trees, corn fields, and small homes at the base. It was real­ly cool to get out of city and see a rur­al part of Chi­na that I’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced before!

On gain­ing confidence

Each expe­ri­ence I had in Bei­jing was a new one. It was so excit­ing to con­stant­ly find myself nav­i­gat­ing unfa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tions in anoth­er lan­guage, explor­ing the city with my friends, and inter­view­ing Chi­nese peo­ple for my class­es! Being able to make such rapid gains in my Man­darin flu­en­cy and adjust com­fort­ably to anoth­er cul­ture over the course of two months gave me con­fi­dence in my abil­i­ty to adapt and live abroad. Since I was able to over­come the chal­lenges of being in such an inten­sive aca­d­e­m­ic envi­ron­ment, it solid­i­fied my desire to pur­sue an inter­na­tion­al career and to con­tin­ue study­ing Man­darin so that I can reach pro­fes­sion­al fluency!

If you had one day in China…

Hike 香山” (Xiāng­shān, or fra­grant hills”), which has beau­ti­ful panoram­ic view of Bei­jing at the end and is worth the seem­ing­ly end­less amount of stairs! If you go, be sure to buy a bag of bāozi (buns with meat or veg­eta­bles inside) at one of the food ven­dors before you make your way up the moun­tain! Also, try 炸酱面” (Zhá jiàng miàn, or lit­er­al­ly fried sauce noo­dles”). It’s one of the most deli­cious things I’ve eat­en in China!

Words of wisdom

Be ready to work hard and have one of the most reward­ing expe­ri­ences of your life! Take advan­tage of all of the amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties you are giv­en to immerse your­self in the lan­guage and cul­ture of Chi­na, because 8 weeks will go by so quick­ly and you will be thank­ful for the friend­ships, lan­guage gains, and new mem­o­ries that you have expe­ri­enced in just one summer.

Alumni Profiles

Kiana Chan
Kiana Chan
Chinese 2015
Beijing, China

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Posted Date

May 03, 2016