It was an unusual feeling for Morais, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the Community College of Rhode Island. Despite the early struggles, Morais caught on and dispelled the myth that adults cannot learn a foreign language. By the end of the eight-week program, Morais would hear birds chirping outside her window, and she swore she heard sounds from the Chinese language.
“I was developing an ear for those sounds, and I was beginning to decode the unfamiliar symbols,” Morais said. “I learned so much from the program, our teachers and tutors and my fellow students. I’m now on my way to fluency in Mandarin.”
The Chinese Summer School is a unique opportunity at URI that enables any adult – not just URI students – to immerse themselves in the Chinese culture. The eight-week program puts participants on the URI campus for four weeks before bringing them to study for four more weeks at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
No previous experience with the Chinese language is necessary. However, participants will quickly learn the language and will be speaking and learning entirely in Chinese just days after the program starts.
“For the beginners, there is some leniency in the first week,” said Erin Papa, coordinator of URI’s Chinese Language Flagship Partner Program. “The participants have classes in the morning and workshops in the afternoon, and they are immersed in the language and culture. Eventually, they will be speaking only Chinese.”
Papa said URI accepts up to 40 people for the Chinese Summer School. During the four-week period on URI’s campus, participants live in the Texas Instruments House on Upper College Road. Classes and workshops are held Monday through Wednesday, and on Friday and Saturday. An excursion to Boston’s Chinatown is included.
“It’s structured that way so people won’t go a whole weekend without speaking the language,” Papa said. “Particularly for beginners, staying with the language every day is key to learning and understanding the language.”
All housing at URI and Zhejiang University, as well as tuition, travel and visa expenses are covered through the $5,500 program fee. The only things not covered are books and meals in China.
The stay in China includes a weekend in Beijing with visits to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. There are also visits to local Hangzhou industry and cultural sites.
URI student Elena Dempsey went through the program last summer, and it had a major impact on her life. She will spend the 2011-12 school year studying and interning in China through the school’s International Business Program.
“Going to China has really changed my whole view on the world,” Dempsey said. “Traveling and studying there gave me a chance to fully immerse myself in a culture that is completely different then my own. It opened my eyes to a whole different way of life.”
The application deadline for the program is April 1. For more information on the program, visit www.uri.edu/chinesesummer or call 401.874.5566.
Any adult can participate in the Chinese Summer School program, regardless of previous experience with the language.