The summer before I started my first year, I called my academic advisor and asked a few questions about the language classes I could take at K. Having taken Spanish for 5 years and having placed into a 300 level course, I thought it would be an easy conversation. Fifteen minutes later, I was enrolled in my first Chinese class. I wasn’t entirely sure the challenge and adventure that lay ahead of me, but looking back I know the impulsive decision I made that day has given me incredible opportunities of growth, building new friendships, and the chance to express myself in new ways.
From fall quarter of my first year all the way until spring quarter of my sophomore year, I was a loyal member of Chinese language classes. The one hour language lab on my Tuesday and Thursday evenings, a time where native speakers helped us with our language acquisition, became as normal as eating meals. My classmates became like family and my professors became some of my closest friends. Going through something difficult with people has a magic way of bringing you close; learning Chinese was difficult and certainly brought us close.
Proud of my accomplishment of surviving two full years of Chinese class, but still feeling like I had a long way to go, led me to studying, researching, and living in China for nine months. Kalamazoo College supported my newfound love of learning Chinese both on and off campus, and encouraged me to challenge myself in new ways. K supported me in receiving a $20,000 scholarship to support my abroad experience and has continued to support me as I seek to further my language skills after graduation. Learning Chinese has become an integral part of my college experience, and the friendships I have made through the process have made me a better person.
People frequently ask me why I decided to study Chinese. Most people probably assume that a decision like this would take a lot of planning and thought, but for me it was different. Impulsive is the only way to describe it. Although I had been interesting in studying Chinese for a while, the decision to take that first class really happened on a whim. And now here I am, three years later able to converse in Chinese on most topics, write academic papers in Chinese, and read the newspaper in Chinese.
If I am honest with myself I don’t know if this would have been part of my college experience had I not attended Kalamazoo College. As part of the liberal arts education K challenges its students to reach beyond their “normal”, and this was led me to my new “normal”. K College opened my world, my words, and my wonder. And for that I am forever grateful.
-Amanda Johnson ’17