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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The importance of studying abroad


A perspective on learning about Chinese culture

I’ve been studying the Chinese language for a little less than two years now, and choosing to learn this language has been the best thing I’ve decided to study in college.

Learning Chinese is difficult when you’re only exposed to the language for about 55 minutes in class, and then only practicing the language for about two hours outside of class everyday. It’s not much exposure compared to how much English I speak each day.

That’s why studying abroad is such an important experience for me. Ever since I started studying Chinese, I knew that during one of my years in college I wanted to travel to China to experience the language and culture in real life, rather than just reading about in a textbook. Being fully immersed in Chinese culture is a great opportunity to practice speaking with native speakers and learn their mannerisms.

It’s great to learn a new language, but if it’s never put into practice then it doesn’t feel all that worthwhile.


This year, I began thinking about doing a summer abroad program in China, whether it be teaching little kids English or enrolling in the China summer study tour offered by the St. Joe’s history department.

So, when I heard the news of the coronavirus outbreak, my heart sank. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “most people get infected with some form of the coronavirus at some point in their lives.” However, this new form of coronavirus (nCoV) “is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.” On Feb. 6, it was reported that the death toll in China has surpassed 600 people and the total number of confirmed cases in China is over 31,000.

I have been reading articles about how U.S. airlines have been suspending their flights to and from China, and how people who had traveled to China in the past 14 days have been subject to a health screening and even self-quarantine. The U.S. even announced a temporary travel ban after declaring a public health emergency.

Dr. Nancy Messonier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated, “We are preparing as if this was the next pandemic.” Hearing this news is devastating.

As the outbreak in China developed into an international crisis, xenophobia towards East Asian people has begun to surface. Stigmatizing all Chinese people (or people who look Chinese) as having the coronavirus is an extremely racist stereotype that reveals a greater hostility against the people and culture of China and people of Chinese descent.

Studying abroad in China is a chance to expand my understanding of the language and the culture, but it’s also an opportunity to bridge the gap between the stigmas that Americans place on other countries, especially China, and what is actually true.

I want to encourage others to study Chinese and I want to show that negative stereotypes and prejudices against Chinese people are completely false.

Although I will not be studying abroad in China this year, I will continue studying the language, and I will continue to promote Chinese culture through St. Joe’s Asian Student Association (ASA).

Until it becomes safe to travel to China, I can only hope for the safety of all St. Joe’s students whose families are in China, and I hope for the safety of all those who reside in areas where the coronavirus has spread to.

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