Q & A with Alumni Lucas King
- Friday, September 3rd, 2021
Q: Why did you decide to study Chinese?
A: Coming into WKU, I knew that I wanted to study political science, and I had always been most interested in the international aspects of the discipline. At the same time, I wanted to develop some hard skills that would eventually assist me with finding a job post-graduation, so I decided to try the Chinese Flagship Program as a way to complement my studies and build up useful skills. After a while, I found that I also really enjoyed the process of learning Chinese, which provided more motivation to continue studying it.
Q: What were three highlights of your program?
A: Study Abroad – Study abroad is heavily encouraged as part of the Chinese Flagship Program. Over my time at WKU, I’ve found that I enjoy the process of learning a language in the classroom, but there is something unique about getting to travel abroad and experience living in a foreign environment while actively learning and using the local language, as I feel you get something more out of the experience than if you’re unable to speak the local language. It also does wonders for your language proficiency!
Comradery – In my experience, studying Chinese can be difficult, especially for the first couple of years. One of the highlights of the Chinese Flagship Program is that the environment isn’t competitive. The program really seeks to create a cooperative environment where students and faculty can be supportive of one another. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through the program, and the close-knit nature of the program is definitely a positive.
Having recently finished up the last of the requirements for the program, I feel like another highlight is getting to reflect on the progress I’ve made in terms of my Chinese fluency over the years, whether that’s through test scores or the ability to hold a conversation about completing paperwork completely in Chinese! It’s fulfilling to consider that I wasn’t able to do much more than say some words when I began my program, but now I’ve reached a point where I can complete a Chinese-language internship.
Q: Did you study abroad? If so, please discuss where that took place and how it benefited you.
A: I had the pleasure of studying abroad twice, once in Taiwan and once in China. Certainly, language-based study abroad benefited my language proficiency, as the sort of daily use that you get via a study abroad program is very difficult to mirror while in the US. Outside of that, however, I think study abroad has a number of more abstract benefits. For example, adapting to cultural differences has helped me work across cultural or other types of background differences, and having the chance to work through the types of issues that come up while abroad has made me more comfortable with attempting new or unfamiliar things.
Q: What are you currently doing?
A: I recently completed the Chinese Flagship Program’s Capstone Year virtually, where I attended intensive Chinese language coursework and completed an internship with the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, a Taiwan-based thinktank. Currently, I’m about to move up to Madison, WI to begin a master’s degree in international public affairs.
Q: How do you think your background in Chinese will help you obtain your career goals?
A: While I’m personally most interested in pursuing a career with the Department of State, my background in Chinese will more broadly likely open up a number of job opportunities; with the way in which the international economy is increasingly globalized, proficiency in a widely-spoken language like Chinese can be useful anywhere from the government, to NGOs, to businesses and factories. Specifically related to my career interests, my background in Chinese and accompanying time spent abroad shows that I’m able to adapt to living and working in a foreign environment, skills that would be necessary if I ended up working somewhere like the Foreign Service.
Q: Why should college students consider majoring in a language?
A: Generally, I think the process of developing fluency in a language is difficult but very rewarding. Particularly once you get to the point where you can understand foreign entertainment and media, getting to see and consider an alternative way of thinking is very useful. Additionally, language skills can be useful in a surprisingly large number of fields, so majoring in a language is a great way to open new doors.
Q: What advice would you have for those who are struggling to learn another language?
A: In my experience, persistence is one of the most important things when attempting to learn another language, particularly early on. I benefited a lot from the support of faculty and other students in the Chinese Flagship Program, so I would also suggest seeking out other people attempting to learn the language, if at all possible. They can provide support, accountability, and also a way to practice using the language! Additionally, attempting to actively apply the language outside the classroom or curriculum is very useful. Compared to other areas, I’ve always found listening to be one of my weak spots with Chinese and starting to listen to Chinese podcasts really helped me overcome some of my difficulties. Whether it's watching tv shows, reading books or news, speaking with friends or native speakers, or listening to podcasts, actually applying the language can help overcome some of the issues you might encounter and give you a reason to continue learning.