BOONE, N.C. — This summer, 20 regional high school students will have the opportunity to explore Chinese language and culture without ever leaving the High Country — an experience made possible through Appalachian State University’s STARTALK Program.
The three-week, residential Chinese immersion program — now in its second year — will take place July 8–26, with a theme of “The High Country Meets the Middle Kingdom.” A closing ceremony will be held on the final day, during which students will perform songs and skits in Chinese, cultural dances, a fashion show and a tai chi demonstration for their friends and family, as well as program staff and faculty.
Drs. Xiaofei Tu and Wendy Xie, assistant professor and associate professor, respectively, in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, housed in Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences, were awarded a federal STARTALK grant for the program. Funding for the grant is made possible by the National Security Agency and administered by the National Foreign Language Center.
Tu, who serves as the program’s director, attributed the success of the program's first year to its highly qualified teaching team and dedicated staff. He added, “It’s also our hope that the program will help generate enough interest in the High Country that the county schools will start thinking about implementing Chinese in their classrooms, at elementary or secondary levels.”
In summer 2018, the culturally rich and academically rigorous program attracted 15 high school students from Watauga High School, Allegheny High School in Sparta, Jimmy C. Draughn High School in Burke County and Salem Academy in High Point, who discovered both the value and fun of learning the Chinese language and culture in and beyond a structured classroom setting.
Over the three weeks of the program, students will spend six hours each day (except for Sundays, when field trips take place) immersed in formal classroom instruction. They will learn to use Chinese to perform basic functions and tasks in real-life scenarios, and explore many aspects of the Chinese culture by embarking on a virtual journey to Beijing — visiting a local Beijing family, dinning at a Peking Duck restaurant and shopping at the Silk Market.
Students will also virtually explore local sites of historic and cultural significance by hiking the Great Wall, wandering through the Forbidden City and visiting pandas at the Beijing Zoo. Students are expected to attend evening study sessions and engage in various cultural activities, such as Chinese martial arts/tai chi, calligraphy, painting, Chinese games, Chinese singing and dancing, cooking, film viewing, paper cutting/crafts and more.
“If we are living in a world that is so diverse, why would we not want to expand our knowledge of places and people that are foreign to us? What better way is there to do this than to immerse ourselves into a different culture by learning a new language?” said Gillian Abee-Freeze, a sophomore at Jimmy C. Draughn High School who participated in the summer 2018 program.
“The 2018 STARTALK summer camp at Appalachian truly provided me with this opportunity,” she continued. “We were always learning the language — whether it was in class with the amazing teachers, or when simply conversing with our camp counselors and peers.”
Hope Gambill, a junior at Alleghany High School who also participated in the 2018 program, said, “Before this program, I thought Chinese was a language I would not be able to learn. I viewed it as so foreign and so distant from English, but even by the end of the first day, I was already asking my mom questions and telling her things in Chinese. I am honestly so lucky to have been able to be a part of this amazing program.”
Rising ninth through 12th grade students with limited or no previous exposure to Chinese are eligible for participation in the program. All program costs — room and board, tuition, textbooks and other learning materials — for the selected students are covered with the support of the STARTALK grant.
Both Tu and Xie said they look forward to passing on the excitement of exploring the Chinese language and culture to high school students in another summer session at Appalachian.
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About the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
The Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures offers courses that enhance students’ understanding of other cultures and languages as well as their own, making them prepared for lifelong learning in a multicultural world. Learn more at https://dllc.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.