A Reflection on my Chinese Minor-ing Experience at Cal

August 3, 2022

As mentioned in a previous blog, one of my accomplishments of the 2021-2022 academic year was finishing up my Chinese minor; and although that journey began just to practice my Chinese and have something nice to put on my resume, that experience was so much more fun and rewarding than I could have ever imagined it to be.

In order to gain a Chinese minor, you must have a minimum of 5 letter-graded courses and 20 units and a GPA of at least a 2.0. These courses include Chinese 10B or equivalent (students with previous language experience may test out of this course due to prior knowledge and experience learning Chinese), three upper division Chinese courses, and two East Asian Language and Culture (EALANG) electives selected from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, and other EA Lang courses. One 7A or 7B course may be substituted for one of the five courses, and EAP courses may be used to satisfy one of the electives; however, not all EAP courses will be approved for the minor. Please check with the advisor in advance. A non-EALC course (History, Anthropology) may also be used to satisfy one of the electives, but again please check with the advisor in advance! The classes I ended up taking for the minor were Chinese 100XA and 100XB (Advanced Chinese for Mandarin Speakers), Chinese7B (Introduction to Modern Chinese Literature and Culture), EALANG112 (​​The East Asian Sixties), and EALANG C128 (Buddhism in Contemporary Society).

The first class I took for my minor was Chinese 7B with Professor Andrew Jones. And that class was…. How do I put this… life-changing? I still remember going into class on the first day (right before the start of the pandemic) a little nervous and unsure of what this modern Chinese literature and culture class will entail, and if I was cultured enough to get through the class okay. And boy did I leave not only that day, but that class feeling fulfilled. We covered Chinese works from “The Romance of the Western Chamber” written in the Tang Dynasty to Mao Ze Dong’s “Little Red Book” during the beginning of China’s Communist Regime. To this day I don’t think I ever met anyone as passionate or interested in Chinese music, literature, and culture as Professor Jones. And he teaches in a way that infects his students with that same passion. It was thanks to this class that I discovered a new passion for older Chinese literature, and continued even after the course to explore other works that we didn’t get a chance to go through (the ancient plays are so poetic that they made some of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read sound like regular books).

The next class I took for the Chinese minor was EALANG112, or a course on the East Asian Sixties taught by Professor Jonathan Zwicker. Although his passion was very biased towards Japan, it was still super cool to learn so much about the historical and societal context of the climate in East Asia, and specifically Japan (and the fact that I got to watch movies for class for the first time was pretty cool too). And introducing me to my first Bruce Lee film is something I will always be grateful to Professor Zwicker for.

I ended my Chinese minor with my Advanced Chinese courses, as well as EALANG C128, or the course in Buddhism. The class on Buddhism in Contemporary Society was taught by Professor Blum, who I coincidentally bumped into and talked to for the first time while trying to turn in a paper for Chinese 7B. Although that course was a lot more memorization-heavy than it needed to be, it was still a really rewarding class to do well in (especially considering the fact that he was so passionate in the subject, and translated many of the original works that we had to read. It also helped me navigate to see if Buddhism was the right religion for me (as it was something I always practiced but never understood enough to know for sure if it was something that I believed in).

Despite all of the classes being amazing though, I would have to say that Chinese 7B and Chinese 100XA/B would have to be the highlights of that experience. I took 100XA and XB with Professor Li Liu, and she was the sweetest teacher I’ve ever had. Although I joined the first of the two courses a few weeks late, I was able to catch up quickly and didn’t feel behind at all. And the fact that I got to continue the class through 100XB and see many of my same classmates, we got to know each other pretty well and it definitely felt like having a class with a second family (especially when Ms. Li invited us all after the last day of school to recite poems outside the campanile and talk about life, it really was an unforgettable experience).

Overall I really loved my experience minoring in Chinese and wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world. I met the most passionate teachers, learned the most interesting things, and most importantly, I learned to really love and appreciate and truly be proud of my culture. And hopefully, this encourages you to explore new classes and extracurriculars to find what passions you have yet to discover (what better time than college:))

Group of people reading poems under the Campanile

Reading poems under the campanile