ASU students win championships in Chinese Bridge Competition

By

Murphy Raine McGary

Arizona State University students Samantha Sanders and Ryan Featherston are championship winners in the 16th Annual Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition held April 29 at the University of Arizona.

The preliminary contest in the southwest region for the competition for foreign college students was organized by the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles in cooperation with the Confucius Institute at Arizona State University. Education Councillor Yuan Dong and Education Consul Chai Haiying were the honored guests in attendance.  

Sanders and Featherston won the championships in the intermediate and advanced level competitions, respectively, through their enthusiasm and passion for learning Chinese language and culture. Featherston will represent the southwest region of the United States and advance to the international level of the Chinese Bridge Competition hosted in China by the Confucius Institute headquarters this July.

College students from the southwest region, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Southern California, are representatives of the Confucius Institute to participate in the competition. Each year, participants’ Chinese proficiency are assessed through three rounds of competition. In the first round, participants present a three-minute speech in Chinese relating to the theme of “Dreams Enlighten the Future,” followed by impromptu questions about the content of their speeches from the judges. During the second round, contestants are quizzed on Chinese culture, geography, and history. In the final round, a Chinese cultural talent show allow participants to prepare a live performance showcasing their talents through music, calligraphy, painting, dance, or martial arts.

Featherston impressed the judges with his fluency and dream of becoming a cross-cultural ambassador. He is currently in the ASU Chinese Language Flagship Program in School of International Letters and Cultures and majoring in economics. In his speech, Featherston described his experience living and studying in China after high school graduation. He started his journey to learn Chinese by living with a host family in Beijing, tasting Chinese foods, meeting Chinese friends and familiarizing himself with the Chinese customs, philosophies and values.

He recognized the cultural differences between China and the U.S. during the birthday celebration of his “younger brother” in China. He was surprised to witness the birthday boy present slices of cake to the elders and guests first while serving himself last. In the United States, the birthday person is always the center of attention and usually the first person to get a slice of cake. This experience enlightened his interest and enthusiasm in cross-cultural awareness and communication. Featherston believes misunderstandings happen, but everyone can learn from misunderstandings and modify their behavior to show respect to each other. His career goal is to become a cross-cultural ambassador or business envoy between China and U.S. 

In his talent show performance, Featherston demonstrated his talents in singing, poem recitation, and playing the flute. He sang a Chinese song titled “Wishing We Last Forever” and then recited “Water Melody: When Did the Bright Moon First Appear?” He finished the song with a flute performance.

Sanders is also a student in the ASU Chinese Language Flagship Program in the School of International Letters and Cultures. After her second year of Chinese study at ASU, she was awarded a Flagship scholarship to study abroad program in Taiwan for two months. Since then, she has visited Beijing and Shanghai as well and collected rich memories and experiences from all of her travels. She loved the historical and cultural sites in Beijing and was impressed by the modernization in Shanghai, and has not forgotte the delicious food from Taiwanese night markets.  

In her speech, she discussed her dream to start a nonprofit organization to protect the environment. This inspiration came from her observation of how almost all Chinese people use eco bags and take public transportation. Sanders reinforced the idea of how there is only one earth in the universe, therefore, it is humans’ responsibility to protect earth so the next generation can have a wonderful future. For her talent show performance, she further impressed the judges and audience by singing a Chinese song, “A Merrily Loving Song.”

Featherston is the third ASU student to place first in the advanced level of the Chinese Bridge Competition in the SW region. Jonny Dangerfield, an ASU Flagship alumnus, and Ryan McCloskey, an ASU computer science major with a minor in Chinese, were both first place winners in 2013 and 2015.