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Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) Program in China
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Thomas Holt

Majors: Chinese and International Politics 
Hometown: Downingtown, Pennsylvania

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I began working as a research assistant for the Brain, Language and Computation lab under Professor Ping Li. I was looking for opportunities to study abroad in China and was interested in conducting my own research and he helped me apply for the program.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I honestly didn’t expect to be selected for this program, seeing as I was only a sophomore. When I received word over winter break that I was accepted, I was ecstatic. I’ve spent this past semester preparing my experiment, and I’ve really come to enjoy conducting my own research. I’ll be studying the ability of students learning Chinese as a second language to distinguish between the lexical tones of Chinese compared to native speakers of Chinese. I’ll also be studying how this ability improves among non-native speakers in relation to learning environment and levels of proficiency in Chinese. In support of my research, I’ve also received a Summer Discovery grant and a College of the Liberal Arts Enrichment Award made possible by a donation from Ms. Catherine Rein.

“I feel like the chance of reaching my career goals improved immensely because of this experience.”

How did this experience impact you academically?

As I said before, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to conduct my own research. In addition to raising my GPA, I feel that this experience has allowed me to bond with my lab members, and allowed me to discover where my academic interests really are. I’m also thrilled at the opportunity to conduct my research in China. I had studied abroad in Shanghai before and had planned to return as soon as possible, but I honestly think I wouldn’t have been able to afford to study abroad again without this enrichment support.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My original career goal was to become fluent in Chinese and eventually use my language skills to serve my country by working for a government agency. This is still one career path I’m considering, but due to this whole experience I’m also considering going to grad school in China and eventually earning a PhD in linguistics. Either way, conducting my own research in China will definitely help prepare me for each career.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Without a doubt.  I would also recommend that other students apply for any opportunity that presents itself, even if you think you’re a long shot. You never know what could happen.

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