I have been studying the Chinese language and culture for about five years. I began learning Cantonese about five years ago, as I prepared to travel to Australia for missionary service. I spent two years in Australia as a missionary, and spent much of my time among the growing Chinese population in and around Sydney. Though I was initially encouraged to focus on learning and teaching in Cantonese, I also began to pick up bits and pieces of Mandarin. After returning to the U.S. and returning to my studies at the University I wanted to continue learning Chinese, and this was when I first began formally studying Mandarin. I spent the remaining two years that I had in college studying languages, and finished my bachelor's degree at Drake University in language studies in English, Mandarin, and German.
Though I felt somewhat confident in my communicative abilities, the summer immersion program in China provided me with a huge leap forward in my abilities to not just communicate, but read and write. Though the three months in Hangzhou were intense, I was able to watch myself make measurable progress, and would easily say my reading and writing ability and character recognition doubled - if not more. The classroom and educational experience was amazing, as was the cultural experience of actually being in China and experiencing the culture that I had been studying for so long. The summer immersion program was the first opportunity that I had to go to China, and after having now gone - I can definitely say that there will be several return trips in my future.
When I finish the Master's program here, I plan on continuing my education even further, and ultimately pursuing a career in academics. From here I hope to complete a Master's program in German and then enroll in a Ph.D program in Linguistics. Once I finally realize my educational goals and end to my "professional student" pursuit, I hope to teach foreign languages and language acquisition. Though I don't plan on any permanent move abroad, I do hope to be able to spend at least one or two years back in China teaching at a school there, before settling down into a career in the U.S.