Graduates 2015-2016

Jacob Keohane ’16 Senior Profile: Chinese Studies

keohaneI became a Chinese major almost by accident. Although I arrived here intending to put my days of studying Chinese behind me, I went on the W&M at Tsinghua University summer abroad program my sophomore year as a sort of last hurrah. Surprisingly, I found those seven weeks weren’t enough, and went abroad again for an entire semester. Upon my return I discovered that, due to a lack of credits, if I wanted to complete my Linguistics major I would have to quit studying Chinese. The choice was clear– I changed my major.
In the past, one of my primary annoyances with studying foreign languages has been the banal topics covered in textbooks and dialogue exercises: what did you do last summer? What kind of foods do you like? Etc. So, it’s been extremely gratifying this last year to actually use my Chinese in class to discuss much weightier topics: the meaning of life, the nature of man, and the like. What’s more, I’ve finally been able to study Chinese poetry in the original. Previously, I’d only ever read it in translation, a rather inadequate practice, to say the least.
Although my time at college has come to an end, my studies of Chinese certainly have not. This summer, I will be in beautiful Suzhou, studying Chinese under the auspices of the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship. I’m also a candidate for a year-long scholarship sponsored by the Confucius Institute, beginning almost immediately thereafter. What happens after that will be anyone’s guess, but no matter what I do, I’m sure there will be a place for literature.