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Mamaroneck Student's Life-Changing Trip to China

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Kathleen Gibbons has always enjoyed her Mandarin classes at Mamaroneck High School, but a trip to China this past summer got her thinking about living there after college.

Gibbons, 17, wasn't able to go on the class trip to China this past April, but made her own way there through Rustic Pathways, an organization that offers travel programs for high school students and other groups.

Gibbons chose the Chinese Language Immersion Program , which offered her three weeks of in and out-of-class study with Dali University professors in the foothills of the Jade Mountains in the Yunnan Province.

In addition to 38 hours of classroom time, Gibbons's experience outside of the classroom helped her improve her speaking skills. "Any successful language student will tell you: the fastest way to start speaking with fluency is to use the language outside the classroom as much as possible," according to the Rustic Pathways website.

"It really just showed me what I want to do with my life," said Gibbons, who was recently accepted into Indiana University.

In addition to continuing her language studies in college, the Mamaroneck resident plans to study abroad through Indiana University's Chinese Flagship Program, a comprehensive language program that cultivates greater fluency.

Rong Rong Le, Gibbons' current Mandarin teacher at MHS, said most of her students continue to study the language in college, including Jordan Gratch, who attends Wesleyan University and recently studied abroad in China. His younger sister Ilana, 17, is now in the same class as Gibbons and also plans to continue her Mandarin studies in college.

"At first I only took it because my brother took it," said Gratch, talking about the Mandarin program. "But, now I like it and want to pursue it."

Gibbons, however, may take it one step further, by living in China after college. "I'm thinking of doing something in communications," she said.

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