Student Profile: Jennifer Lin, '09
Jennifer Lin '09: Intercultural journeys
Written by Marie Zazueta '11, Global Brandeis correspondent
MAR. 27 -- It took a while for graduating senior Jennifer (Jen) Lin to learn the complex dynamics of culture and language. But in taking Chinese at Brandeis, she "realized that through studying the language, I was constantly learning subtle nuances about the history of the Chinese people while at the same time clarifying my formerly hazy perspective on my own heritage."
Throughout her four years at Brandeis, Jen has made many valuable discoveries regarding Chinese culture and her personal heritage. In addition to being a prominent club leader on campus, Jen has a wealth of international experience; she spent the summer after her freshman year in Taiwan with The Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and in China through a study tour; she then spent the summer after her sophomore year in Hangzhou, China with CET Academic Programs, a study abroad provider. She became an East Asian Studies major.
In part, her interest in Asia came from a mixed relationship with heritage. "My parents would speak to me in Chinese, but I would always reply in English," she says. "I was able to understand it at a basic level, but I was never able to use Mandarin to communicate. When my family celebrated Chinese holidays and traditions, I generally went through the motions with no real notion of why we did what we did." With no core reading or writing skills, Jen took Chinese 10A during her first semester at Brandeis.
From there, Jen’s interest in Chinese language and culture grew. Beginning in the spring semester of her freshman year, Jen was a member of BC3, the Brandeis Chinese Cultural Connection. She helped coordinate events such as the annual Lunar New Year Dance. During her sophomore year, she was the webmaster for BC3, and her junior year she was the co-president. Now, as a senior, Jen is the co-chair of the ICC, or Intercultural Center, programming board. She helps run the ICC as a whole and helps bring together the various cultural clubs that fall under the umbrella of the ICC.
Jen spoke about how she enjoys being “an ambassador between these different cultures and different people [within the ICC]. And it's just really interesting to see, over the years, how the ICC clubs work together and how they can collaborate together on things that you would initially think won't relate to each other at all."
Jen feels that “...before you really understand a language you have to go there and be immersed in the culture." During her summer in Hangzhou, her “...real world experience meant I had to go out and kind of stumble through an unfamiliar language with all sorts of people in shops and on the streets…studying abroad definitely increased my confidence level."
Back at Brandeis, Jen realized that “getting to go abroad and be immersed in the culture was really helpful [for me] in my club experience and also being an ICC member…and helping to spread cultural diversity to the campus."
As a second semester senior, Jen has many serious thoughts about her future. "I've been thinking for a long time about going back to Asia…I've been studying Japanese for two years and I just got my interview acceptance for the JET Program. It's a government-sponsored program in Japan where you'll go teach English for a year… I think my role on campus is going to translate there because I'm going to be helping to bring American and Chinese culture to the kids in Japan, which I think is really exciting and I think will help me move my career forward."
In addition, Jen has worked at the Office of Global Affairs at Brandeis since January of 2008. Jen’s primary job at the OGA is to research the various global-related events on campus and then to spread the word of these events by putting out a weekly e-newsletter, titled “Global Brandeis." She also updates the University's international web site.
Jen Lin’s extensive work while at Brandeis with the Intercultural Center, with the Brandeis Chinese Cultural Connection, and at the Office of Global Affairs, paired with her rewarding time spent abroad have both prepared her and given her a clear vision of the career she wants to begin following her graduation in May.