Evangelista is from Marietta, GA and an alumna of the 2012 Chinese Summer program in Suzhou, China. She also served as a Resident Director for the 2019 Chinese Summer program in Xiamen, China.

Dear Future NSLI-Y Students,

Congratulations on embarking on this new adventure! Seeing all of you get excited about this program makes me so happy and brings back a lot of fond memories. As an alumna, I want to offer some advice for your NSLI-Y journey.

First, always expect the unexpected. Be prepared for things to happen that are outside your control. These may be positive things, like making friendships in unlikely places, as I did with a tea seller. But they may also be negative, like bad weather, a late bus, or even an emergency situation. Studying abroad isn’t always easy, but if you can face the challenges with positivity and flexibility, you’ll come out even stronger for it, and with tons of stories to tell your friends and the next NSLI-Y cohort! Just remember to trust in yourself, your groupmates, your host family, your teachers, and your program staff. You’ll have an excellent support system on NSLI-Y, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

The Gate of the Orient in Suzhou, China

Next, remember not to take any aspect of the program for granted. This may seem like a given now, when you’re in the middle of the application process and still hoping for that acceptance email, but it’s an easy mindset to fall into inadvertently once your program begins. Of course, do enjoy yourself to the fullest! But also remember to take the time to be appreciative: Appreciate this opportunity for yourself, who will have spent all that time and energy on your application and interview and those nerve-wracking months waiting for an email. Appreciate it for your family, who will be taking a leap of faith letting you travel across the world without them. For your teacher who wrote you a recommendation letter. For the volunteer who will have interviewed you, and the people who will have read your application. For the program administration and staff who will have been working for months on grant proposals, program schedules, and other back-end preparations, and who will continue to support you through travel prep and implement your orientation and your program. For the local volunteers and host families who will welcome you into their lives next summer or year. And for those alternates not moved up and others not selected who won’t have the chance to be where you will be.

Evangelista doing Homework in her Host Family's Store

Finally, take your language pledge seriously. If I could go back eight years and do something differently on my program, this would be it. It was always so tempting to speak English when there were no teachers around, but I think my Chinese would have improved so much more if I had spoken the language more often with my groupmates and encouraged them to do the same. Doing so really forces you to interact with and think about your target language differently than you usually would. It forces you to overcome that instinct to use your native language and to get creative with the way you communicate. So, don’t just sign the pledge and forget about it; take this opportunity to hone your language skills as much as you can!

The front gate of Evangelista's host school in Suzhou, China

Since my NSLI-Y program, Chinese has continued to be an integral part of my life and my studies! I returned to China four times after NSLI-Y and have gone to visit my host family, volunteered as an English teacher for a summer, served twice as a NSLI-Y chaperone, and spent my junior year of college abroad at Xiamen University. In December 2018, I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in Chinese Studies and Asian Studies. I recently finished my Master’s thesis in project management at the University for International Cooperation (Costa Rica), and now I am looking forward to applying for further graduate studies in the field of international education, which I hope will allow me to combine both my language and project management skills to work with fantastic programs like NSLI-Y and their students!

I hope my advice has been helpful, and I wish you all the best on your application and, hopefully, your future NSLI-Y program!

Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou, China