Summertime Standouts: Sydney Spiegel

Summer in China helps mechanical major learn Chinese

Sydney Spiegel pictured in Wuzhen, China. Wuzhen is an ancient town famous for its canals, craftmanship of local goods, and the dying of a special blue fabric that was used by the common people who could not afford silk.
Sydney Spiegel pictured in Wuzhen, China. Wuzhen is an ancient town famous for its canals, craftmanship of local goods, and the dying of a special blue fabric that was used by the common people who could not afford silk.

Mechanical Engineering major and Chinese minor, Sydney Spiegel ‘22, is spending his summer in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China studying at Soochow University.

Spiegel was selected for the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, which is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students.

With an acceptance rate of less than 10%, this nationally competitive program funds students who study one of the 15 critical-need foreign languages, and is part of the National Security Language Initiative.

This rigorous, two-month program doesn’t allow students to speak any English throughout the course, encouraging participants to adapt completely to the Chinese language.

“Every morning I wake up at 5 a.m. and start doing homework, then take an hour-long subway to the university for class at 8 a.m.,” Spiegel said. “First thing every morning, I give a five- to six-minute oral presentation, where I will be graded on my confidence, tones, and grammar. Then, in the afternoon I have time to study one-on-one with my language partner for two hours.”

Improving his language skills

Sydney and his classmates enjoying dishes from China's western Xinjiang province.
Sydney and his classmates enjoying dishes from China’s western Xinjiang province.

After class concludes, Spiegel returns to his host family’s home for dinner and additional studying. “On the weekends I like going around and practicing my Chinese with the locals. I already have made connections with so many people,” he added.

Spiegel said the highlight of the trip has been seeing the rapid improvement in his language skills and being able to use that to create meaningful connections with another culture.

“I went out to go sample some of Suzhou’s local craft beer with one of my teachers, and we were able to have a three-hour conversation about his life, what living in China is like for young people, and his thoughts about China on the global stage,” he said. “This was a really meaningful experience for me because I was able to authentically learn about another person’s life, change some of his stereotypes about Americans, and I was able to see all of my hard work studying this incredible challenging language finally pay off. The beer was really great too.”

“This was a really meaningful experience for me because I was able to authentically learn about another person’s life

— Sydney Spiegel

Spiegel’s long-term goals are to find a job in the mechanical engineering industry to tackle complex issues that could benefit society. It’s also important to him that, in his position, he gets to communicate with people from around the world.

About Summertime Standouts

Summertime Standouts is an annual feature on SOURCE that highlights students who made an impact this summer around the globe, across the country, and even close to home.

Check out more Summertime Standouts at source.colostate.edu/summertime-standouts-2019.