While at their various locations, the students spent their days in intensive language classes in an immersive environment. On days off, the students had opportunities to both familiarize themselves with the local culture and visit tourist sites.
Alex Lee '19, who traveled to Chișinău, Moldova, raved about his time there. While abroad, he lived with a host family, who he still keeps in touch with. "It was an amazing way to immerse myself in both the language and the culture," he said.
Alex was often struck by the scenery of his host-country. "It was like living in the Soviet Union," he opined. "Everything was so old-fashioned. It really was like heading back to the 1950's. They're very proud of the Soviet history there. It was incredible to experience that."
Alex was one of two students to study Russian, along with Jack Delaney '19 (who spent his time abroad in Russia). They spent five days a week in class. "At first, I wasn't really able to converse with my host family at all," Lee said. "But by the end of my time there, we were talking quite frequently. I still keep in touch with them."
Besides Russian, three students also had the opportunity to travel to study Chinese. Terence Coyne '19 and Daniel Wolfe '19 spent the duration of their NSLI-Y program in China. They had the opportunity to travel to see such wonders of the world as the Great Wall of China. Like Alex, they also spent a significant time in language courses, noting a profound improvement in their speaking ability.
Raymund Lee '19 traveled to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. While there, he lived with a host family that had two children close to him in age. "I still keep in touch with them," he said. He also noted his family's querulous attitude towards American culture and politics. "It was an amazing opportunity to live there. I learned so much about Taiwanese culture, and I also was able to share a lot of my own culture. They were really curious about the political situation in the U.S. It was definitely interesting to consider from a new perspective."
Raymund was thrilled to be in a smaller city, in order to see a more "traditionally Taiwanese" setting. He remarked that there is not as much Western influence there, which was incredibly beneficial both for his language immersion and cultural exposure.
The final student, Morgan McCordick '19, had the opportunity to travel to Amman, Jordan to study Arabic. While there, he lived with a host family. "It was incredible to be in such a new place. Even just walking around the city was an exciting time," McCordick said.
He relayed that a great deal of the enjoyment and interest came from hearing what Jordanians thought of Americans. Likewise, he recalls being asked over and over what American think of Jordan. "The cultural exchange was such a unique experience. Apart from being in a new place, I was invited to consider my own culture, as well."
While there, Morgan had the opportunity to visit Petra and the Dead Sea. He also fondly recalled the splendor of the night sky in the desert there.
The students all saw significant improvement in their language abilities. Interestingly enough, they all also conveyed that the culture shock upon returning was far greater than the shock when they arrived. "It was really bizarre to come back," Terence Coyne quipped.
Each student expressed a great deal of thanks for the program. "It was amazing. I already miss it," said Alex Lee. "It was a truly humbling experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world."