Sha Li’s Story: A Global Student & Intern | Concordia Language Villages

Sha Li's Story:
A Global Student & Intern

Sarah, outside of the University of Hong Kong.

Jane Peterson is proud of her daughter Sarah. Jane writes in her article “Westerners can level playing field by learning Mandarin,” for The Straits Times (an English-language daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore): “As I watched Mrs. Michelle Obama struggle to paint a single Chinese character, I am grateful my Anglo-American daughter already knows thousands of them.” 

In 2003, at age 12, Sarah 莎丽 (Sha Li) Peterson attended her first summer at Sēn Lín Hú.  She returned for the next four summers, including spending the summer of 2006 with the Concordia Language Villages’ Chinese Abroad Program in Kunming, China.

“I was apprehensive and nervous before arriving at Sēn Lín Hú. I had absolutely no knowledge of the language on my arrival, so I was completely lost with everyone speaking to me in Chinese. The initial unfamiliarity of the environment also made me very homesick. (There were a lot of tears during my first summer!) Of course that changed as Sēn Lín Hú began to feel like a home away from home.”

Sha Li has many fond memories of Sēn Lín Hú, many of which involve music. “I can still remember most of the songs we sang and absolutely loved learning to play a Chinese arrangement on the drums. The musical director who taught us was fantastic. I was always impressed by how well he could play the erhu (traditional Chinese equivalent of the violin).”

Sha Li is truly a global citizen. She grew up in London and moved with her family to Singapore in 2007. She continued to study Chinese at the French School of Singapore. After high school, she attended Cambridge University where she majored in Chinese and Japanese.

“Academically, my Sēn Lín Hú experience played a huge role in my obtaining a place at Cambridge University in East Asian Studies. My Sēn Lín Hú experience was a prominent feature in my application and no doubt was beneficial in helping me demonstrate my love for Chinese to the admissions office."

Sha Li credits her Language Villages experience for helping her learn to adapt to new situations, absorb huge amounts of unfamiliar information, overcome communication barriers, and relate to culture differences. She has found these skills particularly important as she enters the working world. 

“During one of my internships in Hong Kong, a senior associate once asked me if I knew any Tang poetry. The first poem that came to mind was one that I had learned to recite at Sēn Lín Hú. He knew it too and enthusiastically joined me in reciting it. The funny thing is that of all the Tang poetry I studied in Cambridge, it was the one I learned at Sēn Lín Hú all those years ago that I actually remembered!”

Sarah (center) with colleagues from one of her internships.

Sha Li has spent the last two summers working in Hong Kong and plans to move to Hong Kong later this year for a postgraduate program in law prior to starting work at a law firm in Hong Kong.

“Professionally, my Sēn Lín Hú experience is on my resume and has always come up as a discussion point in interviews. It is something that employers want to hear about and an experience that I am delighted to elaborate on. In that regard, I know that Sēn Lín Hú has strengthened my job applications. I would not have landed a number of internships in Hong Kong law firms without my Sēn Lín Hú experience to draw on.”