Kayla Blomquist was The Tai Initiative’s youngest intern this year.  We asked her to share her perspective as a freshmen student on how her work with us shaped her college experience and outlook.

Interning with The Tai Initiative

I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with the Tai Initiative. Being a freshman at the University of Denver (DU) with a schedule already packed with rigorous courses, a job coaching figure skating, and a spot on DU’s nationally ranked club figure skating team, I wasn’t particularly looking for an internship.Kayla

But I jumped at the opportunity to work with an organization that seeks to better U.S.- China relations. As an intern for the Tai Initiative, I helped update the webpage, wrote several blog/interview posts, and helped to set up the conference in Denver. I enjoyed the opportunity to interview both Clarence Low [President, Colorado Asian Chamber of Commerce] and Travis Tanner [Senior Vice President, 100,000 Strong Foundation] for the TI blog; each offered valuable insights into their respective professional areas. Other conference preparations I helped with included reaching out to invite professionals in the Denver area and helping Lida Lee [University of Denver Masters student and TI Conference Event Coordinator] set up logistics for the day of the conference. Although The Tai Initiative is based in Seattle, it helped me create connections beneficial to my studies it helped me create connections in Denver. Lida and two other Denver team members (Chang Liu and Zhang (Grace) Liang) are graduate students in International Relations and Public Policy at DU, the fields I’m majoring in. Being associated with them helped me practice my spoken Chinese and provided wonderful advice in regards to my graduate school goals. In return, I gave Lida skating lessons!

I have had a fantastic experience working with Tai Initiative; I’ve gained experience in managing a webpage, conducting interviews, event planning, and have also gained many new friends along the way.

The Conference in Denver

During the conference, I was able to sit in on some of the workshops. I chose “K-12 Mandarin Teaching” and “Opportunities & Practices in Expanding US-China Educational Exchange,” because the area of foreign language education is of particular interest to me. I am a firm believer in the importance of learning foreign languages, especially while students are young, and in applying the findings of research on how to improve foreign language education across the nation. During those two conference workshops I learned directly from experienced educators [note: such as Pam Herron, pictured below on right, a faculty researcher for New Mexico State University’s Confucius Institute] about some of the lesser-known difficulties in developing Chinese programs at K-12 schools and universities, such as visa complications for teachers. The conference was an eventful and successful day, which I am grateful to have been a part of.

TrioNew Opportunities

In planning the conference, Lida Lee [pictured left, in middle] and I worked alongside our event host, Jane Lim (Director of the Confucius Institute of the Community College of Denver). We so enjoyed each others’ company during meetings and lunches that now we both are continuing to help Jane organize Denver’s upcoming celebration of Confucius Institute Day [note: watch for future news of this event on taiinitiative.org].

In addition to helping the Confucius Institute of the Community College of Denver, I will be helping the DU Study Abroad department to create a committee that works to increase campus awareness of study abroad opportunities in China.

 Kayla has been studying Chinese since 9th grade and will study abroad in China, Fall 2015.  She is pursuing a minor in Chinese at DU, while double-majoring in International Studies and Public Policy.  Kayla has been a figure skater for 15 years, earning a US Figure Skating Gold Medal in Moves in the Field, and was the highest point earner for the DU skating team at the 2014 Intercollegiate national team championships. She has been asked to take on two leadership duties: organizing her skating club to host the annual collegiate skating competition at DU and being the Orientation Leader for DU’s first year international students, who are mostly from China.