Princeton in Beijing: A Reflection

Senior Adriano Albarosa reflects on his time with Princeton in Beijing and his experience learning Mandarin.

When I first came to China I thought Mandarin was extremely difficult and I did not plan on taking it beyond the mandatory requirement of NYU Shanghai. However, as time passed and I have devoted more time to putting the language into practice through regular language clinic visits as well as interaction and engagement with the locals, I have become so happy being able to speak it that I immediately developed a passion for it.

It was this passion that led me to apply to Princeton’s Intensive Mandarin Program (PIB) and luckily to have been accepted for an 8-week intensive learning experience in Beijing featuring a no-English speaking pledge.

Spending the summer at Princeton in Beijing has been one of the best experiences of my life.
I loved the intensity of the program because I could see how my Chinese was progressing on a daily basis. The teachers were all top-notch, passionate and genuinely caring. They went out of their way to ensure that students understood the material and that they were able to put it to use in their daily lives.

Besides classroom learning, there were plenty of opportunities to get involved and have a good time. Princeton organized trips to main sights such as the Great Wall, engaged us in activities such as traditional Tai-Chi, had us put our public speaking skills to practice through a Mandarin speech competition in collaboration with Harvard University. This is a never-ending list.

Opportunities to make friends were also endless. Personally, through the program’s Chinese Table (中文桌子) I was able to foster friendships in Mandarin with students from other US colleges who shared the same passion for the language as me. Speaking in Chinese became pretty casual between us already a few days into the program and this greatly inspired us to keep up the hard work..

While my Chinese has improved massively, the program has also showed me how much further the road goes with learning Mandarin if one decides to take it. There is a common misperception among students in that they view the program as a “converter,” seeing it as something that transforms a non-Mandarin speaker into a native-level speaker. This is untrue.

From my experience, I would say that the biggest takeaway is the fact that Mandarin will come more naturally to you. You will not be scared to speak out and even if you have to go without speaking the language for a while like I did during study away, you will be surprised at how quickly you can jump back to it. To put it simply, the program has what I call a drilling effect – it ingrains Chinese into you such that you will be able to apply it no matter the circumstance.

Having completed the program and being able to increase my network of friends as well as professional relationships through engagement in Mandarin has been a very rewarding experience for me.

I am excited about the prospect of continuing studying this language with dedication and capitalizing on it on my potential career in Asia.

If you are also genuinely passionate about Mandarin, I definitely recommend you to take this program. It does not matter what year you belong to, PIB students are from all age groups so don’t let this deter you.

I would be happy to answer any further questions any of you may have and give further advice & tips on the application. 希望你们都申请这个中文项目! ‘

This article was written by Adriano Albarosa 安达. Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Adriano Albarosa

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