Obies Using Languages: Katie Mercer-Taylor ’17{0}

Katie is a fourth year Environmental Studies Major and East Asian Studies Minor. Katie spent last semester in Chin and summarizes their experience below.

I spent February-June of 2016 in China, through the Middlebury in Kunming Language Intensive Program. Since it’s an intensive there is a language pledge, so everyone pledges to speech only Chinese for the semester. At first this was really nerve-wracking for me because I also had plans to do independent research, thanks to a grant I received, and I thought it would impede my research. For the first part of the semester I ended up having to focus only on the language intensive part. I spent 4 hours everyday in class and then 6-7 hours doing homework, just really focusing on studying the language and especially memorizing vocabulary.  It felt like a huge disadvantage and was very frustrating for a while.

About halfway through though I realized that I was finally able to say everything I needed to in my daily life! At that point, I was able to reach out to huge groups of professionals for interviews and really get into my research project. It was so nice to recognize how my language skills improved to that level. It was also great to see how local people were really appreciative to be spoken to in their own language like that. Being able to connect with people on that level is a very powerful thing that I didn’t notice as much until it came from this intense work I had to do to get there.