December 14, 2016

Blending History and Modernity in China

Having grown up in a Spanish-English bilingual household and learned American Sign Language in early high school, Angela Avonce of Orlando, Florida was no stranger to the challenges and benefits of language learning before the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y).  Despite having no prior ability in Mandarin, Angela applied for NSLI-Y China based on her desire to learn Mandarin and immerse herself in Chinese culture.


Group photo at chinese wedding Angela (second from the right) smiles in group photo at wedding
Both before and during her time in the city of Deyang, Angela was fascinated by how “China’s ancient history and culture blends with the rapid modernization that characterizes its recent history.”  A highlight of her trip was participating in her friend’s teacher’s traditional Chinese wedding, a beautiful demonstration of China’s ancient culture that is increasingly rare in contemporary China. As opposed to the white dress and black tuxedo of American weddings, the bride and groom wear red and black, and all participants dress in traditional Chinese dress called Han fu. In the spirit of traditionalism, participants even refrained from wearing prescription eyeglasses. Angela was continually impressed by the collectivism embedded in Chinese society, and keenly experienced the contrast of that collectivism with the individualism of American culture.

Upon returning to Florida, Angela was faced with the challenge of continuing her Mandarin studies, as her high school does not provide courses in Mandarin and there are few options for Chinese cultural engagement in her community. She has maintained her language ability through online language applications and regular conversations with her host family through Chinese video and messaging apps WeChat and QQ.  She also remains engaged in international policy, and is the founder and president of her high school’s Model United Nations.

Angela stays involved in NSLI-Y as an Alumni Representative, a role in which she advises prospective and outbound NSLI-Y participants based on her experience and organizes career and networking events for fellow alumni. Her involvement in NSLI-Y demonstrates the incredible impact of language and cultural exchange, and she continues to use this knowledge to empower others in her school and community. 

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