Journalism major and Chinese Studies minor at the University of Nevada, Reno, Daniel Lindbergh Lang, was recently awarded a prestigious scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Chinese this summer in Xi'an, China. The award is part of the Critical Language Scholarship program which is an intensive overseas language program intended to increase the number of Americans learning languages that are critical to the nation's security and economy.
The scholarship covers travel, room and board, food and a small stipend for the entire two months Lang will be in China. This isn't a typical study-abroad program though. "I'll have a local roommate who is a regular student of that university. It's very heavily structured; I can only speak Chinese," Lang said.
According to Lang, the program has less than a 10% acceptance rate and for his award, two years of prior Chinese study was required. Lang was also offered a public relations internship this summer in Texas but turned it down. "I can do internships a lot of other times in my life - a program where my own government is funding me to study Chinese and I'll be with a cohort of people who want to be global leaders - this is a great opportunity," Lang said.
This trip will be Lang's second trip to China. He recently completed a study-abroad program through USAC in Shanghai, China. While there, he completed his foreign language requirements in Chinese. This first trip was a bit more personal for Lang though, because a week before his departure, his mother died tragically. He kept to the program schedule, but tried to use the time to discover more about his Chinese heritage. His mother was born in China and Lang still has many relatives there.
Lang visited his mother's hometown in China and referenced photos of his mom in different places around China and tried to locate those places and learn about his mom through other people. "Had mom been alive, I wouldn't have had the drive to learn this." Lang explained that his mother taught him very little Chinese growing up. She did encourage him to be bilingual as he got older, but he said he only thought of it from a business perspective. It wasn't until his mother's passing that he had the motivation to really find out about his family history.
Now, Lang is planning his second visit to China and believes his cultural awareness will really help him excel this time around. He said the trip this summer will allow him to process more about the culture and get another perspective on China.
Lang is an honors student at the University and is currently writing his honors thesis on Chinese Catholic media. He said doing the research in the native language is the most appropriate way to research the topic. He is confident in his conversational fluency but said he needs more professional background on this project. He believes this scholarship will help make his research possible.
Studying Chinese is also shaping Lang to be the global citizen he sees in himself. "I always thought of myself as half Chinese but when I went abroad, my relatives thought of me as full Chinese. It was so amazing to me to think of myself as a global citizen," Lang said. "I started to feel fully American and fully Chinese."
Not only does this scholarship have personal and professional meaning to Lang, but he really feels it's good for the University to be recognized by the United States government. "It's humbling to think that I am a part of that - a part of that example that a student at this University can achieve these things," Lang said.