Phillip, Chinese (Mandarin)

Phillip from Garden Grove, CA is an alumnus of the 2022 Mandarin Chinese Virtual Summer Intensive NSLI-Y program.

Phillip, a 2022 Mandarin Chinese Virtual Summer Intensive alum, had never seriously considered the possibility of studying abroad before participating in NSLI-Y remarking, “I once believed that the borders of my Vietnamese-American community here in the United States were the borders of my knowledge.” However, as his love for the Chinese language grew, he knew that he wanted to seek opportunities to immerse himself deeper into the culture and the language – he wanted to be able to apply his language skills to real-life situations in a culturally authentic environment, which NSLI-Y gave him the opportunity to do.

Phillip observes that his participation in the Mandarin VSI program instilled in him a greater sense of pride and awe for his Asian heritage and identity. Even though the Mandarin writing system was completely different from his native Vietnamese, he continuously noticed similarities between the two languages, especially in tonal pronunciation and vocabulary. He noted, “[…] getting to talk to my Chinese peer tutors – all of whom were not much older than I was – and my language teachers about Chinese culture helped me dive deeper into the holidays, traditions, foods, and cultures that Vietnamese and Chinese people share. Without a doubt, I walked away from VSI with a boundless appreciation for the Chinese culture that has played a prominent role in my own.”

His favorite memories from his program experience are also some of the most humbling. One memory that came to mind was when some Chinese primary school students attended his classes to help correct students’ pronunciation of traditional Chinese poems. While Phillip was a little embarrassed initially by being corrected by primary school students, he thoroughly enjoyed this experience and the ability to learn more about Chinese culture and language through the eyes of much younger students. Additionally, he is grateful for the peer tutors who helped him throughout the program. They helped keep him motivated, make language learning fun, and turn mistakes into learning experiences.

After completing the NSLI-Y VSI program, Phillip has continued his language study by attending courses at a local college. He feels prepared to tackle Chinese language study at both the collegiate level and while in Kaohsiung, Taiwan this summer, where he’ll be headed after receiving another NSLI-Y scholarship. His exchange experience so far has shown him the power of citizen diplomacy and the importance of promoting global understanding among people of different nationalities and cultures. This has motivated him to study international relations and Chinese in the future, hopefully propelling him towards a career in diplomacy and bilateral relations between the United States and East and Southeast Asian countries.

Phillip also strongly values the community he has built through NSLI-Y noting, “This sense of camaraderie didn’t just begin after the program; it began when I met with my cohort of six other students during VSI. Every one of us grew up in different places and had different experiences throughout our lives, but we all bonded over the fun and rigor that was intensive language study. Our cohort’s sense of community and friendship continued long after the VSI program ended, and we all joined a community of over 8,000 alumni with unique yet mutual experiences: the NSLI-Y Alumni Association.”

Phillip is a 2023 NSLI-Y Alumni Representative, a role through which he fosters a sense of community among NSLI-Y alumni, raises awareness about language study opportunities, and helps provide professional development resources to alumni. He considers his relationships with other alumni to have a significant impact on his NSLI-Y experience noting, “If I could encapsulate this lasting impact into a few words, these words would be ‘the people.’ The people I’ve met before and after my exchange experience inspire me every single day to pursue my passion for building a sense of community and mutual understanding here in the United States and across the world.”