Summer Centered: Claire Blood-Cheney '20 and Jessie Chen BMC '20 Are Teaching— and Learning—in China
The rising juniors will work together this summer as interns for the Nanjing, China, chapter of the Amity Foundation.
Though classics major and international studies minor Claire Blood-Cheney ’20 and linguistics and East Asian studies double major and Chinese minor Jessie Chen BMC ’20 may not have shared many classes together on campus, they will cross paths in a most unlikely location this summer: Nanjing, China. Both interns for the Chinese voluntary organization Amity Foundation, along with Anisha Varatharajah BMC ’21, their responsibilities will nonetheless be very different: Blood-Cheney, a first-timer, will be serving in the Social Services Center in the Foundation’s Nanjing headquarters for a month and a half before she receives an English-teaching placement, while Chen, who’s returning for the second year in a row, will be supervising new recruits, as well as overseeing public relations initiatives.
"I'll be working with my coordinator and staff to discuss changing the [intern]-screening process in order to attract more qualified applicants and to raise interest level internationally,” Chen says.
Both Blood-Cheney and Chen found this internship through—and are receiving support from—the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, which has maintained a partnership with Amity Foundation for more than a decade. For both of them, the internship’s appeal was deeply rooted in their desire to familiarize themselves with the Chinese language and culture—and, in Chen’s case, defend it from harm.
"I’ve studied Chinese on and off growing up, and throughout high school,” Blood-Cheney says. This summer, she hopes to acquire a better understanding of Chinese customs, in addition to refreshing her language skills.
By contrast, Chen’s concerns are not nearly as linguistic in nature. A self-identified American-born Chinese woman who often “feels very out of touch with the culture of her own ethnic background,” she chose to intern for Amity for a second summer to address "issues I observed... particularly the interactions between foreign volunteers and local Chinese citizens that often reflected ignorance and lack of cultural competency—and of course, classic ‘voluntourism.' I could have pursued another internship, job, [or] research opportunity this summer, but I felt morally compelled to revisit and reflect on my experiences and produce something tangible and sustainable.”
Because Amity prioritizes communities in need of assistance first and foremost, their interns are regularly shuttled to different sites.
“Many organizations have a specific itinerary planned out for interns and volunteers and this itinerary tends not to change from the moment you commit till the end of the duration,” Chen says. “However, Amity has many branches—some targeting education, others targeting economic equity—and various community centers open all around China. I could be at the Child Development Center for children with autism at Nanjing one week and the Amity Bakery for adults with mental disabilities another week, and the Amity Community Center for summer day camp teaching the next.”
As challenging as that may sound, Blood-Cheney and Chen are eager for the opportunity. Blood-Cheney—who hopes to go on to a career that will allow her travel extensively— is particularly looking forward to growing from the experience.
“The more comfortable I am in unfamiliar places with new people,” she says, “the better prepared I will be in the future.”
"Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.