John H. Dolan '01
My life is immeasurably richer for having studied Chinese. Language is the key to understanding a different culture in its full dimensions, and in the process, to unlocking my own. Studying language is more than word choice. Language is the means of expression that inherently alters the very way we think and act, from bartering in the alleys of Shanghai to engaging in a human rights dialogue in a Beijing classroom. And I would have never known a completely different dimension to my personality if I had not attempted a language that so molds behavior with a culture and history as one such as Chinese.
My junior summer, I remember riding the R3 into Philly during the summer with Professor Wu to get some dim sum. I hadn't had a class with her for years, but we were still a great team. We just spend the entire morning just laughing and reminiscing and joking around.
But that's not what I remember about studying Chinese at Swarthmore. I don't have so much a memory of studying Chinese as a resonant feeling about the experience; a sense of family, of place, of closeness with the faculty and peers in a journey that will, thankfully, never be completed. I remember sitting in Professor Kong's office discussing Gong Li's feminist subversion of Zhang Yimou's fetishistic scopophilia in the film "Ju Dou," and just having a vibrant, intense discussion. At one point, I just looked up and yelled across to Professor Wu and Berkowitz about the point. The department is very tight, figuratively and literally. And within a minute the entire Chinese department came in and we just had this great back and forth. It was intense but friendly and fascinating... to have all these incredibly talented minds in a small room talking about a minute point... it's just incredible.