Skip to main content

Cannea Ferguson '14 masters Mandarin in Beijing

When Cannea Ferguson '14 arrived in Beijing, China, in June, she signed a pledge to speak only Mandarin until she returns home at the end of the fall semester. Ferguson is completing the Associated Colleges in China (ACC) Intensive Language and Culture Program at the Minzu University of China. Her participation has been made possible by the Freeman Foundation's Freeman-ASIA award, a grant that provides financial support for undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need who desire to study abroad in East and Southeast Asian countries during the summer or academic year.

Ferguson is spending the summer and the fall semester studying in Beijing, which is equivalent to a full year of academic language study. The Freeman Foundation, in its desire to support undergraduate students who wish to study abroad in Asian countries, has enabled the College to offer a series of TRIP (Traveling Research Immersion Program) courses since 2001, specifically allowing Chinese and Japanese language students and faculty to travel to Asia. Similarly, the Freeman-ASIA program is dedicated to an increased understanding of East Asian culture by American people through study abroad experiences. Therefore, recipients of the awards must complete a service project upon return to the U.S. to promote study in East and Southeast Asian countries.

Ferguson is planning to spark interest in China and other Asian countries as potential study away locations for Connecticut College students by hosting a discussion panel at the College. "I hope to collaborate with other Conn students returning from study in Asia and professors associated with the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department to share personal study abroad/ work experiences and answer any questions about the application process and certain programs," she said.

As an East Asian studies major and recipient of the College's 2012 Sulin Ma Prize for excellence in intermediate Chinese, Ferguson was encouraged to apply for the ACC program both by her major adviser, Associate Professor of Chinese Amy Dooling, and her Chinese language professor, Tek-wah King. "Cannea has been studying Mandarin since her freshman year at the College and thus has an excellent foundation in the language already," Dooling said. "I have no doubt, though, that the total immersion experience she will have in the [ACC program] will enable her to make enormous strides in terms of her cultural and linguistic proficiency."

Ferguson also hopes to connect her experience abroad with the senior integrative project she will complete as part of the certificate program in the College's Toor Cumming's Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA). Her proposed project, "Official Representations of Chinese Ethnic Minorities within Han Society," will explore the role museums and the Chinese government play in "the creation of these representations and in the reinforcement of Han culture in society," she said. "This project will hopefully help me draw conclusions about the preservation and survival of minority cultures, as well as minority groups' advancement, in contemporary Chinese society." As a part of her CISLA research, Ferguson will return to China to complete a College-funded international internship next summer.

- By Bailey Bennett '14

August 16, 2012