Nikki Bown

Major(s) and Certificate(s):

English, Integrated Liberal Studies Certificate

Graduation Year:
Current city:
Sun Prairie
Current state/province/country (if outside US):
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?:

I backpacked for two months, and then taught English in China. I started in Shanghai, moved westward all the way through China, Tibet, Nepal, and India. From India, I returned to China to commence teaching at Jiangnan University, in Wuxi, China. When I returned to the States, I started my work as the Quest Coordinator at the Crossing, which has given me the opportunity to not only plan service-learning adventures for UW students, but also go on plenty of them myself. I also recently got married and have settled in Sun Prairie with my new husband!
I currently work as the “Quest Coordinator” at the Crossing, which is an ecumenical, not-for-profit organization that serves students at the UW. I coordinate all of the Crossing’s service-learning adventures, known as Quests. This means a lot of recruiting, planning, organizing, and working with students, but it’s a great challenge!

What motivated you to study this/these languages?:

I became fascinated with China my senior year of high school while taking a modern world affairs class. Learning more about China’s ever-increasing importance on the world stage inspired me and made me want to go there and experience it for myself. I decided then that I wanted to be an English teacher in China, and when the time came to choose a language to study at the UW, I knew just the one it would be!

How have these languages enriched your life?:

Being able to use the Chinese language skills that I acquired at the UW gave me an autonomy and confidence that I don’t think I could have possessed in China without knowing some of the language. In this globalized world, it’s easy to “just get by” with English nearly anywhere; however, nothing quite compares to the feeling of personal satisfaction that comes from being able to communicate with someone in their native language. Learning Chinese was a great personal challenge, and gave me a lot of self-confidence that I have used, and will continue to use, while traveling abroad. I don’t know that any of my other classes in college were as time-consuming as Chinese, so taking it my freshmen year also really taught me how to study well!

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?:

My Chinese classes at UW were most of the most intense that I took in college! They were interactive, challenging, and time-consuming. But they WORKED. I remember I was dreaming in Chinese after only about 4 weeks of class! We had to write and memorize speeches to give in front of our classmates, which definitely made me practice (and practice) my pronunciation!

How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?:

I had the opportunity to attend Chinese Conversation Table every Friday, which was a great opportunity to practice my new vocabulary. My roommate freshman year also happened to be from China, and she patiently helped me study for tests and grade me as I practiced for my speaking exams! While working and living in China, I obviously had plenty of opportunities to use my Chinese. It was very empowering!

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?:
电脑 [Diànnǎo] (“computer” in Chinese). Literally translated, it means “electric brain.”