Alex Harper will spend a semester in direct-enrollment classes in Nanjing, China, and participate in an internship with a Nanjing-based news outlet as part of BYU’s Chinese Flagship Program—all thanks to a Boren Scholarship. Harper recently scored in the advanced-high range on Chinese standardized oral and written tests, and he hopes this study abroad experience will help him attain superior ratings.
While studying at Nanjing University, Harper will enroll in courses that will expand his vocabulary, advance his understanding of Chinese culture, and improve his conversational fluency. “On top of my regular classwork, I will meet one-on-one with a native Chinese speaking tutor for eight hours each week,” Harper remarked. “This time will be an essential opportunity to have my questions answered and practice using new words and grammar patterns that I have picked up in my classes.” In addition, Harper will perform community service. “My first choice would be to volunteer at a school for children of migrant workers and provide English tutoring,” he said.
The second portion of the study abroad is career oriented. Harper will be employed full-time with a Chinese news agency. “Among other responsibilities,” he explained, “I will work as a translator, helping to produce high-level translations of the company’s articles from Chinese to English. Every week I will have a Skype call with the resident director to test my language skills and track my continuing progress.” Throughout the study abroad, Harper will have the opportunity to visit historical sites and gain a deeper appreciation for the culture.
Harper has an extensive history of working closely with Mandarin Chinese. He studied the language in high school for two years and spoke it while serving a mission for the Church in Singapore and Malaysia for two years. After his mission, he lived with a Chinese family in Shandong, China, and worked as an English teacher. “All of my interactions were in Chinese, apart from the five hours I spent teaching English each day,” he said. Harper then returned to BYU and received Chinese tutoring while attending Chinese classes every semester. “These past two semesters, I have completed seven hours per week of private tutoring with native speakers,” he said.
“This time will be an essential opportunity to have my questions answered and practice using new words and grammar patterns that I have picked up in my classes.”
Following graduation, Harper hopes to pursue an MA in international studies at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on United States–China relations. He would eventually like to join the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service officer in Asia.
To complete his long-term goals, Harper has taken steps to ensure his success. “This summer I will be interning at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China, where I will be using Chinese every day to help further the United States’ diplomatic mission there,” he said. After that, he will attend the Nanjing study abroad to improve his language skills and to gain “viewpoints on international issues on a more sophisticated level.” He explained, “Studying these issues through both the Chinese academic lens during my time at Nanjing University and through the media lens during my internship will give me the experience and cultural context I need to work effectively as a consular officer.”