Amanda McMillan will be spending the next week packing her bags and calming her nerves.
The newly minted graduate of Brock’s applied linguistics program will be China-bound on July 15 to be an observer at the annual Chinese Bridge, an international competition of language and cultural proficiency for university students who have learned Chinese as a second language.
While McMillan is looking forward to her weeklong travel adventure ahead, she isn’t as certain about her skills speaking Mandarin.
“I have mixed emotions,” McMillan said. “I’m mostly excited but I’m nervous about speaking the language.”
Still, she wowed judges earlier this year when she participated in a preliminary round of the contest hosted by the Confucius Institute at Brock at the end of March.
At the urging of Prof. Cheng Luo, the institute’s director, McMillan took part in the local edition of the competition. She prepared a three-minute story about learning the language, answered questions about the Chinese culture and tongue and sang Kang Ding, a village love song.
She relied on the Mandarin language skills she picked up teaching English for a year at a kindergarten in Shenzhen and later during in a class at Brock, where she learned how to read and write what she could easily verbalize.
“I was just doing the competition for the exposure,” McMillan said. “It pushed me back into the language because it had been a while since I used it.”
In the end, she was one of two Ontario students selected by the Toronto Chinese Consulate to head to the prestigious event, held in the city of Changsha in central China. McMillan is also the first Brock student to attend the competition. In total, 117 students from 70 countries will participate in this year’s Chinese Bridge.
Unlike the other student, who will be competing in the finals, McMillan will be there to absorb the experience as an observer – not that she’s feeling entirely at ease about her role.
“It’s more relaxing for me because I don’t have to compete. I’m still a little nervous about the language aspect… . Everything is in Chinese,” she said.
But it will be a good refresher for McMillan, who returns to Shenzhen at the end of August to teach English again.