Aparna Bhooshanan earns scholarship to study in China

MADISON – Aparna Bhooshanan of Madison received a U.S. Department of State scholarship to study in China.

Bhooshanan, currently a sophomore at Bob Jones High School, earned the scholarship as a freshman. The scholarship is affiliated with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth or NSLI-Y.

Before her time in China last summer, Bhooshanan had not taken any courses in Mandarin. “I had only been exposed to Chinese in Madison in public places. The enunciation and tone have always intrigued me,” she said.

She became more fluent in Mandarin during time in Xian in mainland China. Attending during summer “was an ideal time to go abroad without affecting school,” Bhooshanan said. An initiative scholarship is equivalent to $10,000.

The initiative is associated with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with the Department of State.

Aparna competed with more than 3,300 applications. Approximately 660 recipient students studied Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Russian or Turkish overseas.

Aparna’s sister Meenakshi won the same scholarship in 2016 to study Arabic in Jordan. “Through her experiences with the initiative, I knew this program to be excellent at many levels,” Aparna said. “I’ve always been attuned to languages and cultures … from travelling abroad with family to visit relatives in India and sightseeing.”

“As an American with Indian ancestry, I’m curious about the world we live in. I had studied world history and am studying French. I chose Mandarin as my first choice, even though I knew it was one of the toughest languages. It did not disappoint,” Aparna said.

Aparna’s host family was very warm and welcoming. “They sacrificed their comfort for mine. My host sister was 10 years old and the only one who spoke English. I was in a sink-or-swim situation and made the best of it,” Aparna said.

Aparna’s hosts live in Xian, Shaanxi, China, “a beautiful ancient city that goes back several centuries of history and the city with Terracotta Warriors.”

The grandparents also lived with the family. “Grandfather and Grandmother did mostly everything around the house. The parents worked, while little sister did school. I learned from three generations of Chinese and was immersed in various aspects of Chinese life — from riding public transport, shopping and eating outside,” Aparna said.

For college, Aparna is keeping her options open because she’s uncertain about which school. She will major in computer science and English literature.

For more information, visit nsliforyouth.org or exchanges.state.gov/highschool.

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