How the Confucius Institute Changed My Life
By Jaivi Chandola
I started to learn Mandarin in kindergarten. I loved learning Mandarin, so my parents found the Confucius Institute (CI). I have been learning Mandarin at the CI for about four years. I have so much fun and learn so much!
When I first started, I learned how to use Mandarin to say numbers, colors, food, clothes, and so much more! Then, I learned how to write characters and radicals. I watched LittleFox videos too, which are short video stories in Mandarin, to help me learn children’s songs, Chinese vocabulary, and characters. I studied in the summer and during spring and winter breaks, too. I went on to Level 2! Now I learned parts of the house, body parts, food items, family, school and so on. I could also converse in Mandarin. 你好, 我叫Jaivi! 你叫什么名字? 我是美国人， 你呢? (Hello, I am Jaivi! What is your name? I am American. How about you?) Then, when I was 8, I reached Level 3! My Mandarin was really improving.
Without the CI, I would never have had such an amazing and supportive teacher or this learning community.
Christmas came and my teacher (Guo laoshi) gave me a present — a calligraphy set! Inside the golden case with intricately embroidered patterns were a carved black stick (墨), a shiny white bowl with blue patterns to hold water, a white and blue calligraphy brush holder, a gray stone plate with a lid to mix the ink in (砚), and four calligraphy brushes (笔) with handles the color of polished rosewood. Guo laoshi taught me how to mix the ink by grinding it (墨) onto the ink stone (砚) and pouring a little water in. Next, she gave me a packet with some crinkly yellow rice paper (纸), a mat with spiral patterns on it, an accordion-folded paper with lots of characters on it, and a felt pad (毛毡). She helped me write some characters on the paper which we put on top of the felt pad so that the ink would not bleed on the table. I think calligraphy is very beautiful and I will keep practicing to make mine better.
I could have said 谢谢 (thanks) forever! But what’s the point of doing all this at the CI? Without the CI, I would never have had such an amazing and supportive teacher or this learning community. I would never have borrowed books from the towering bookshelves at the CI. Being part of this community has led me to sing at the annual CI day/Moon Festival celebration and participate in lots of Chinese festivals. I have gone to the Lantern Festival and learned about many different traditions. I made a lucky knot, played 古筝 (guzheng, a Chinese zither), listened to Chinese music, and puzzled over riddles.
Of all the activities, the Moon Festival was the best. I wore a special red dress (the Chinese color of happiness) and wore gold shoes (the Chinese color of wealth). I tried different foods, listened to instruments and saw dances. I also spun a handkerchief on one finger. I could do it pretty well! Then, I had to go on stage. The music came on, and I started to sing. I made everyone laugh with my movements, and at the end, there was lots of applause! It was a very special experience and I would never have experienced it without the CI’s help.
Some people think Chinese is hard, but it’s really not, if you try. Learning with the CI is very fun, too! I am glad that I go to the CI and get to experience many Chinese traditions and festivals.
I’m glad that the CI taught me Chinese, because this summer, I am going to China! I’m excited to visit 长城 (the Great Wall) because I made a model of it! I want to use my Chinese to talk with the people there too.
谢谢你 (thank you), CI!
Confucius Institute at The University at Buffalo
Williamsville, New York
Jaivi Chandola is a nine-year-old girl finishing third grade at Maple West Elementary School in Williamsville, New York.
She is in the middle of her 4th year of studying Mandarin Chinese with the Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo. She plans to become proficient in reading, speaking, and writing Mandarin and would like to collaborate with Chinese people to help make the world a better place. Also, she thinks it will help her when she becomes an astronaut and is doing a scientific collaboration with other astronauts who speak Chinese.
She likes writing poetry and this year her poem, “Colors”, was one of the winners of the annual Williamsville Poetry, Music, Art, and Dance Celebration. She also loves to read books as well as learning math, science, social studies, spelling, and writing.
Jaivi is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) and won High Honors in the 2017-18 CTY Talent Search. In her school, she is in the gifted and talented program for both math and English Language Arts and is an outstanding student. She makes comprehensive presentations to help her class learn about concepts like weather, Aborigines, etc.
When she grows up, she plans to be an astronaut, writer, and aerospace engineer. She is also passionate about the environment and plans to raise money to send to a wildlife organization and adopt a whale!