Hi, I’m Jaime Cantwell! I went to Deyang, China on a NSLI-Y scholarship the summer of 2016—I studied Mandarin Chinese at Deyang Foreign Language School for six weeks while living with a host family. My AFS program was my first time going to China, but definitely not my last. After I returned to Seattle, I decided to continue my study abroad experience at NYU Shanghai, where I’m currently a freshman studying Economics and Chinese. I’ll be in China for three out of my four years of college, so by the time I graduate I hope to have a strong grasp of Mandarin Chinese and a comprehensive understanding of Chinese culture.
For the duration of the program, I studied at Deyang Foreign Language School (DFLS). We had language classes for three hours in the morning and two more hours in the afternoon, which was followed by a culture class. We had a wide range of culture classes, such as taichi, Chinese painting, kung fu, Chinese dance, and traditional paper cutting. Our language teachers and peer tutors were absolutely amazing and I still keep in touch with them over WeChat—many of the closest friends I made in Deyang were friends I met at school. Our class only had ten students, so my classmates and I all became really close over the six-week period.
On Wednesdays, instead of our afternoon language and culture classes, we had cultural excursions to various sites around Deyang. Some of my favorites were the Mianzhu New Year Painting village, Xiaoquan Ancient Town, and the Panda Research Center in Chengdu! Our local coordinators and peer tutors always accompanied us on our trips and gave us some more cultural insight that was related to where we went. These excursions were a great way to bond with our classmates, peer tutors, and local coordinators, deepen our understanding of Chinese culture, and take a break from the rigor of our daily language classes.
After school, we all went home to our host families. I lived with my host parents and host sister who is two years younger than I am. Because of the One Child Policy, most Chinese kids are only children (but with the recent end of the policy, this is changing with the next generation!), so my host sister was really excited to have a sibling for the first time. My host sister and I went out to the city center together to eat, play games in the local arcade, and just explore the city. After dinner each night, I would go on a walk around the neighborhood with my host mom—this was one of my favorite parts of my life in Deyang, since I got to talk to my host mom about many different topics and bonded with her during this time.
I decided to end the week with everyone’s favorite part: food! Food is an extremely important part of Chinese culture. Sichuan has many specialties that I had the opportunity to try while I was in Deyang. I really loved 天蚕土豆 (tincntdu, “silkworm potato,” fourth photo), 冰粉 (bngfen, I couldn’t find a translation for this, but it’s in the fifth picture!), and Sichuan-style hotpot. Much of the time that I spent bonding with my host family was when I was eating breakfast, dinner, or street food snacks with them.
I hope that through these posts you got an idea of what my experience was like. Though six weeks may seem like a short time, you can make life-long friends and great language gains if you put your mind to it. My six weeks in Deyang gave me a confidence to speak Chinese that I didn’t have before, and no matter how clich it might sound, it was a life-changing experience. Thanks so much to everyone who read my posts for this week! Feel free to reach out with any questions.