I was interested in international issues and Asia. I looked at programs all over the country, but the University of Mississippi program was the only Chinese program I found open to undergraduates that offered an intense language program combined with study abroad opportunities early in the program. Even better, the program offers qualified students very generous scholarships for study abroad with the program. I met some of the faculty on a visit to Ole Miss, and that won me over.
In addition to the two summers I spent in Qingdao, China with the Flagship program, I chose to spend one summer studying Korean in South Korea and a semester studying Chinese in Hangzhou, China. In my semester abroad, I made so many Chinese friends. I felt like Chinese "clicked" for me when I was abroad--I was able to put all the things I had learned to use, and to interact smoothly and naturally with all kinds of people in China.
One of my favorite memories was a trip I planned myself. Along with a few friends, I traveled all the way to Xinjiang province in Western China. We traveled along Silk Road routes from the provincial capital of Urumqi through the desert, visiting historic sites. We ended up in Kashgar and spent the night on the Chinese border with Pakistan. I did the planning entirely in Chinese, buying plane tickets, negotiating travel fees, and choosing what sites to visit. We saw ancient mummies, the Taklamakan Desert, Kashgar (an old silk road town where the movie The Kite Runner was filmed), and parts of the Pamir and Kunlan mountain ranges. The trip was amazing!
I like the Flagship because it's a practical program, and students make progress quickly. Our classes are focused on teaching us Chinese language that we will use outside the classroom. My flagship classmates study many fields--anthropology, engineering, politics, and economics come to mind--but we're all hoping to achieve high language proficiency and use it in future jobs.
I am participating in our program's fifth year Capstone Experience in Nanjing, China. I will direct enroll as a foreign student, taking graduate classes with Chinese students at Nanjing University. In the spring I will participate in an internship with a Chinese firm. I'm excited to push my language to a new level and to have the opportunity to network in China.