Lulu was admitted to the Governor’s School for International Studies at The University of Memphis, as well as a six-week, full-immersion language program in China administered by the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Let’s just say she will be speaking only Chinese in July and August.
Even though she was born in Memphis, the first language Lulu learned was Arabic. Of course, she learned English too, and when she started Hutchison in the sixth grade, she started studying Chinese.
Lulu said she is accustomed to switching between languages; she speaks English during the school day, but when she returns home, she speaks Arabic with her family. She also travels to the Middle East every summer with her family where she is immersed in the language and the culture.
“Traveling has been my whole life, and I feel like it’s necessary when you’re trying to be more open-minded and aware of everything going on in the world,” Lulu said. “It’s a way to get to know different cultures, customs, and traditions, and it’s helped me to analyze things in history and learn languages and cultures. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.”
When Lulu learned about the possibility of furthering her studies in Chinese at The University of Memphis in its Governor’s School program, she jumped at the chance. Several Hutchison faculty members, including upper school head Dr. Barry Gilmore and upper school history teachers Clay Francis and Amanda Magdalena, have been involved with the Governor’s School and encouraged her.
Governor’s School is a month-long program where students live on the University’s campus and learn about “the political, economic, and social systems of the world” through seminars, lectures, individual and group projects, and an in-depth study of a specific nationality’s language, customs, lifestyles, and cultures.
“I’m participating in Hutchison’s Certificate of Social Sciences program, and I’ve always had a passion for social sciences and international studies ever since seventh and eighth grade when I was doing Model UN,” Lulu said about why Governor’s School appealed to her.
Concurrent with her application to Governor’s School, Lulu decided to apply to the NSLI-Y program. NSLI-Y is designed to promote language learning among American youth. Participants live with a host family speaking only the target language and get to experience and learn about a country’s culture first-hand. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with the American Councils for International Education.
Both applications were rigorous and required essays, recommendation letters, transcripts, and interviews. Lulu said it was good practice for applying to college.
“I don’t even know if I can describe just how happy I was when I figured out I was not only accepted to Governor’s School but also NSLI-Y as a sophomore. It was just mind-boggling,” she said.
Then the difficult decision came: which program would she choose? Both programs are fully funded, but there was some overlap in June, so she couldn’t do one and then the other. After weighing both options, she decided on the NSLI-Y program. “I just felt like spending six weeks in China was too great to give up,” Lulu said. She plans to reapply for the Governor’s School program for next summer.
Lulu is looking forward to being fully immersed in the Chinese language and culture this summer. She had previously traveled to China in 2018 as part of a Hutchison school trip and participated in the month-long StarTalk Chinese intensive at Ole Miss last summer. NSLI-Y has already sent her a nearly 100-page packet that answers questions about cultural differences between China and the U.S., and soon she will start completing homework, quizzes, and tests to prepare for her trip.
She will still go to the Middle East in June with her family, but then will return to Washington, D.C. for the NSLI-Y orientation program at the end of June. She flies to China on June 28 and returns to the U.S. just before the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year in August.
“I’m going to be getting on a plane and going to one of my favorite places in the world and studying for free for six weeks,” Lulu said. “I’m excited because I know my Chinese proficiency is going to improve so much. I’m already trying to imagine scenarios in my head and what I would say with the amount of language that I know now.”
She said it’s too early to know what she will study in college, but Chinese will be part of the equation. “I love international studies and cultural and language learning, but I also have a deep passion for math,” Lulu said. “I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to handle all of those interests.”
“We’re really excited for Lulu and think she will be an excellent student in China and representative for the U.S. and Hutchison,” said Dr. Kristen Ring, head of school.