Senior Profile: Alec Sharkey (Chinese Studies, 2019)

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My time in the Chinese department here at William & Mary has been one of unforgettable moments and wonderful experiences. Before coming to William and Mary I had spent time in both middle and high school studying Chinese language and culture, but my studies here at William and Mary truly elevated my previous studies to the next level. The language courses helped to refine my vocabulary and give me the tools to speak with Chinese citizens. The tough, but fair, rehearsing of vocabulary and speeches helped me onto the right path for the tonal subtly needed to navigate the Chinese language. My experience here, however, was not solely focused on the study of the Chinese language but also an exploration of Chinese culture. While here I was able to explore modern Chinese cinema and literature throughout the 19th to 21st century, ancient Chinese poetry, and the rise and historical significance of Pan-Asianism in the continuing narrative of East Asia. Additionally, I was fortunate to study shanzhai (counterfeit) culture in my Senior capstone course and explore what it means to be shanzhai or at the very least labeled shanzhai. It would be remiss to not also touch on my incredible experience in China itself on William & Mary’s Summer Study abroad, where I was able to spend two months at Tsinghua University studying Chinese language and conducting research on guan’xi.

The department has helped me mature as a student as well. Whether it be learning how to reach out to citizens to probe for answers while studying at Tsinghua or digging through databases to find the evidence necessary to support that Communist Theme Parks in China stand as fascinating integrations of capitalism and Communism, the department has encouraged me to take my studies into my own hands and let my curiosity drive me to even greater heights. All the while providing support at every step along the way. As I begin the next steps in my career and head to China to teach English in Shenzhen, I am proud to have had the opportunity to study with William & Mary’s Chinese Department.

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