Leisha Guzman Torres is an alumna of the 2017 CLS Chinese program in Suzhou, China. She is currently working on a master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Puerto Rico. Leisha is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and loves reading, playing with her dog, going to the beach with friends, and baking. Leisha aspires to become a professor of language arts or second language acquisition.
A Breakthrough Moment
One month into the CLS Program, I was in the back yard of my host family’s house and my host mom joined me there. That day, for the first time, she and I were able to communicate casually in Chinese. We talked about music, gardening, and our cultural backgrounds without a problem. I was very pleased to finally have enough language to communicate with her, and we became fast friends!
After eight weeks of total immersion in Chinese language and culture in Suzhou, I began to understand how the subtle cultural differences in day to day life really make a difference. When I left for my program site, I was in love with the ease with which one could move around in comparison to how difficult it was back home. On the other hand, when I was home, I was able to appreciate the silence and comfort of small or non-existent crowds. I like to share the subtle differences I noticed with everyone who is interested.
I’m from Puerto Rico. It has a very different culture from the mainland, and even within that culture there’s a lof of ethnic and cultural variety. I hope to bring my CLS experience to others in Puerto Rico by creating a language study group that would meet regularly. In this group, students studying Chinese could practice their language skills in a casual environment. I would integrate professors into the group by asking them to supervise our activities. My experience has been that students studying Mandarin tend to be very motivated, so I am confident that organizing a Mandarin conversation group will be a success.
People and Language
I would definitely recommend studying Mandarin in Suzhou, China to anyone who is interested. The locals were overall very friendly, patient, and helpful. Also, Mandarin is a very interesting language and quite different from English. When you first learn to communicate, sentences may feel somewhat choppy. However, by the end of the program, you will recognize that your sentences start to flow naturally and see that you may even be able to express your thoughts using just one verb. Chinese also has many proverbs that are very fun to learn and easy to integrate into daily speech.