Sarah Juarez is an alumna of the 2018 CLS Chinese program in Suzhou, China. She’s currently a junior at Texas A&M University, where she majors in Computer Science. Sarah plans to pursue a master’s degree in Computer Science, potentially in China. She wants to continue practicing and improving her Chinese by using it every chance she gets.
Inspired by Exchange
I grew up in Houston, Texas in an area where the majority of people are Hispanic like me. Because of this I never really experienced much diversity until my freshman year of high school, when I met an exchange student from Thailand. This was my first real exposure to a different culture and it was so different and interesting to me that when I started college, I decided I wanted to learn a new language. It was at this point that I started studying Chinese and then started to learn more about Chinese culture and people, leading me to apply to the CLS Program. I decided to study Chinese because I wanted to learn a language that was widely spoken and would also be a bit of a challenge to learn.
I would recommend others to learn Chinese because even though it is challenging, it’s very interesting and rewarding. I love how every Chinese symbol has a meaning and when combined with other symbols, the meaning changes. One of my favorite Chinese phrases is “高富帅” (gāo fù shuài) which means, “tall, rich, handsome” and is used to describe a man who has these qualities and is ideal for dating or marriage.
There is so much history to the Chinese language and once you start to learn more, it starts making more sense and becoming even more enjoyable to learn.
One of the most memorable moments I had during my CLS experience was when I was just having a regular conversation with my language partner and I realized how similar youths in China are to the youth in America. I feel like we tend to focus on the differences between countries and cultures, but in reality, we’re all humans and college students in China enjoy memes as much as American college students do (this is just one example of the many similarities that I found).
Bringing the Experience Home
When I returned home after the CLS Program, I tried my best to share my experience and debunk the stereotypes many people in my community might have towards Chinese people. I tried my best to emphasize the similarities I found between China and America so that people would stop thinking of Chinese people as a different group of people and start thinking of them more as people who just do some things differently.
CLS Alumni Ambassadors are recent CLS participants who take leadership roles as active and positive representatives of the CLS Program by engaging with CLS alumni and representing the program to various audiences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alumni Ambassador, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org