24 January 2018

Take a look at what just a few of our 2017-2018 class of Student Ambassadors have been up to this month:

Citlali Blanco, 18

Citlali is a senior at Northside College Preparatory High School and has recently been accepted to Stanford University’s class of 2022! She joined the Student Ambassador program as a nominee of the Chicago Public School District Confucius Institute. In regards to her original motivations for studying Mandarin, Citlali notes that she has always appreciated going off the beaten path, exploring cultures that are completely new. “In my culture, Mandarin is considered the most foreign of the foreign languages,” she notes. She wanted to learn about the differences and potential similarities between her own Mexican-American culture and Chinese culture and language, so she embraced the challenge. Citlali has achieved intermediate to advanced proficiency in Chinese in just over three years, demonstrating her commitment to studying Mandarin, which she plans to study beyond high school.


Citlali has already studied in China twice, once with her high school and once for a month last summer at the Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic Institute as part of the Chicago Public Schools Chinese Summer Language, Culture, and Technology Initiative (CSLCTI). Studying in China furthered Citlali’s sense of purpose in raising her Mandarin level and learning about China. She says, “My motivation for studying China has evolved as a result of my study abroad experience: I want to bridge the divide between American, Mexican-American, and Chinese culture.”


Citlali’s academic interests include molecular and cellular biology, neuroscience, and environmental engineering. She has a vision for how her academic interests relate to her China experience. She says, “I hope to be able to publish research in both English, and Chinese, and collaborate with Chinese researchers to make both our countries safer and more sustainable.”



“I know that every new Mandarin word I learn, every new Chinese cultural fact I understand, and every intercultural friendship I form is a crucial board for the bridge I am building- a bridge larger than what my mind could have fathomed before the beginning of my China story- that spans from the roots of Mexico, across my warm home, America, all the way to the open hearts in China.”









Dea Harjianto, 18

Dea Harjianto is a student at Middletown High School in Delaware, and was nominated to be a Student Ambassador by the Delaware Department of Education. Dea decided to begin studying Mandarin as a way to push her out of her comfort zone. She says “my goal was to expand my horizons by choosing a topic that was unfamiliar to me at the time.”

Dea has now been studying Mandarin for two semesters, and plans to continue studying the language in the future. She traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai this past summer to study for a month at Hangzhou Wanxiang

Polytechnic through the Delaware Summer Chinese LiNCS Program 2017. Dea’s Student Ambassador project for this quarter was to write a blog post about her personal growth over the month she spent in China. She describes her transformation from an analytical, logistically focused student to learning to live in the moment to absorb all that a new culture and environment had to offer.

Her long-term career goal is to find a job in the STEM field, and hopes to pursue chemical engineering and computer science in college. Her time abroad in China has encouraged her to seek exposure from different cultures, and even influenced her future career path. Dea now has a strong desire to return to China, whether through a study abroad program or a future career opportunity.


It was a surreal time, and a surreal experience. If I had the opportunity to travel back in time, I would choose the month of July 2017 without a single doubt.









Czar Carson, 17

Czar is a student at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, and was nominated as a Student Ambassador by the Chicago Public School District Confucius Institute. He was originally motivated to learn Chinese to practice the language at home with his sister, who also attended Lindblom. However, after meeting Lindblom’s language requirement through studying Chinese for two years, Czar realized the value of speaking and reading Mandarin, and decided to continue studying the language. Now having studied Mandarin for four years, Czar has achieved intermediate proficiency, and intends to continue his Mandarin language studies.


Beyond studying Mandarin in the classroom, Czar studied abroad in Hangzhou for one month through the Chicago Public School District Confucius Institute Program, and was one of ten Student Ambassadors recently selected for the opportunity to contribute to the East-West Center’s (EWC) “Asia Matters for America” website, by providing three seasonal essays detailing his experiences and lessons learned while studying abroad in China. In his application essay for the EWC guest contributor position, Czar cited some of the key benefits of studying abroad in China, specifying, “Having cross-cultural knowledge makes you a conscious global citizen. It allows you to communicate on a higher level and understand a wide variety of concepts from both American and Chinese culture.”


Czar’s academic interests currently include computer science – while Czar is unsure about his long-term aspirations, he says that they will most likely be related to computer science. He also notes that learning Mandarin has opened up new opportunities, remarking, “I’m not really sure what I want to do in life, but I know that whatever I choose, I can incorporate Chinese into it.”


“Language is a powerful tool that can help you connect to others, so no matter where you go it will only help you.”