Jake, Chinese Academy Student

For Jake, the Academy provided the opportunity to be immersed in language with other like-minded teens who are passionate about learning Chinese.

“My name's Jake Pagano. I'm from Wellesley, Massachusetts. Chinese kind of seemed mystical, while at the same time useful in today's world. There's the obvious benefits of globalization and intertwined economies coming together. What I find the most enjoyable is interacting one-on-one with a person.

“And understanding really what he means and she means, not based on a translation. I've taken two years of Chinese at my school. I've enjoyed, certainly, but the group of kids at my school, they don't always want to interact in Chinese. And during the class time, we learn vocabulary and we add on to what we know, but we don't necessarily get the same immersion.

“I find that when you are interacting with your friends in a new language, you're almost forced to use the language. You want to talk about politics. You want to talk about sports. You want to talk about your friends, who you want to go to the dance with, and all that. So the vocabulary comes naturally and it begins to flow. It becomes second nature to think in that language and not in English.

“Now when I hear someone speak Chinese, it's not a panic anymore. It's not like, oh, all right, I have to translate. I have to hear what he's saying. You kind of can feel what they're saying, and you can understand the language, even if you don't understand every bit of their vocabulary, and you can reply to them.

“We're living our lives here in Chinese, but we're still living our lives and enjoying them.”