By Brandi Wylie ’24
Rising 6th graders through graduating high school seniors from all over the country are invited to Wofford College to participate in the 9th annual STARTALK summer program, focusing on the Chinese culture and language.
This is the first year since 2019 that the free, two-week camp will be offered in-person. Dr. Yongfang Zhang, associate professor of Chinese, has led this program at Wofford since its inception in 2013. The program is funded by a federal grant.
Students are welcome from anywhere, but students are responsible for their own lodging for this day program. The program will provide a bus to transport students from Greenville County.
This year’s theme is a “Digital Time in China,” and it will take program participants through China’s current digital era.
Zhang is particularly excited for the simulation experiences that will allow students to see things that have become the norm in China, such as paying for goods and services through an app, ordering food at a restaurant through a QR code and more.
To prepare for this rigorous curriculum, students are required to participate in pre-camp and post-camp learning activities. To accommodate all those who wish to participate, Zhang has decided to turn the pre-camp experience into an interactive and educational video game.
High demand from returning students the second year of the program inspired Zhang to create three levels for students to enroll in, allowing for students to participate in the program for up to three summers.
Students who wish to come back for another summer do not have to worry about being unable to learn more about the language between the sessions, as Zhang believes the curriculum is so intensive that it leads to retention.
“Students who may not have Chinese classes available at their school to provide them with daily practice were able to come back the second summer and still retain a lot of what they learned,” Zhang says. “How we designed the curriculum helps them internalize the language, allowing them to pick up where they left off the last summer. This is something we’re really proud of.”
All applicants must have at least a B+ average and be “energetic and highly motivated.” The application consists of three parts: the application itself, an official transcript and a letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Applications are due Feb. 1 and acceptance will be on a rolling basis. Priority will be given to those students who can attend all the sessions. Sessions are June 19-30 from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. No prior Chinese experience is required, although novice experience is encouraged.