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Lea Ekeberg '98

 Having just finished my graduate school applications, I finally have a moment to sit down and reflect on my experience with the Chinese department at Swarthmore. I am applying to graduate school in Chinese, which should be evidence that studying Chinese at Swarthmore has influenced my life a great deal.

When I arrived at Swarthmore, I knew that I would major in French, but I had no idea that I would also be an Asian studies major. Chinese was the first class that I took at Swarthmore, and on Monday at 8:00 am, I learned how to count to ten in Chinese. I was immediately hooked. I took more courses in Chinese politics, history, and literature, and at some point, it seemed as if I had always intended to study Chinese. Chinese language table, which had at first terrified me, soon became one of my favorite places to be at Swarthmore. It was very comfortable and homey, and it was great to be able to talk with the professors and students in Chinese outside of class. Even outside of language table, I always found my professors extremely willing to meet with me to discuss anything.

Looking back, it's amazing to me how quickly I moved from knowing nothing about China to speaking Chinese and studying abroad in Taiwan and China. My time in Asia was the highlight of my college career. My studies at Swarthmore prepared me well, and I was able to learn so much so quickly once I arrived. When I returned to Swarthmore, I used interviews that I had conducted in China to write my Asian studies thesis.

At the same time, I was also able to major in French, take many wonderful French courses at Swarthmore, and study abroad on the Grenoble program. My Chinese and French professors were very flexible in allowing me to pursue my interests in both languages and cultures.

After I graduated, I returned to China to direct the same program on which I had studied abroad three years earlier. My second stay in China was just as transformative as my first, only from the opposite side, as I moved from student to director. After working in other positions in international education, I am applying to graduate school with the hope of becoming a professor of Chinese. Studying Chinese at Swarthmore has opened many doors for me and helped me to find what I want to do with my life.

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