Robert Sylvester graduated in 2015 with a degree in Political Science, but studied Chinese throughout his time at CUA. He is currently a Regional Director at Empower Illinois, an educational non-profit.
"I have been studying Mandarin Chinese since high school and it has changed my life for the better. When I was a student in high school and at CUA struggling with Chinese I knew that someday all of the hard classes would pay off in a big way. For me, that moment came when I was able to spend a whole academic year in China doing nothing but studying Chinese. My language skills grew by leaps and bounds and I had a blast in China! Knowing and studying the language opened the door to the world’s second largest economy, one of its oldest civilizations, and a country modernizing at an incredible pace. More importantly, it provided me with the opportunity to engage with some of the most interesting, kind, and generous people that I have ever met.
Upon returning to the USA my Mandarin skills helped set me apart in applications for graduate school and jobs. In my senior year, I was accepted into the University of Notre Dame graduate school, the Peace Corps, and received a Fulbright scholarship in large degree because I knew Mandarin Chinese and had international experience. Being able to have such a wealth of options as a graduating senior was rewarding and I ultimately decided to attend the University of Notre Dame and become a high school teacher as part of their Alliance for Catholic Education program. During my two years as a classroom teacher, I started a Chinese club, assisted with our exchange students from China, and helped launch a Mandarin Chinese class at the school. It was incredibly rewarding to share my passion and love of China and Mandarin with my students.
As I neared the end of my time in ACE, I applied for the new Schwarzman Scholars program and was a finalist for the program. Knowing Chinese definitely helped me get into the final round and it was a subject of conversation when I was flown into New York City to be interviewed by Deans of schools like Yale, foreign policy experts like Condoleezza Rice, and military professionals like General Petraeus. Ultimately, I was not selected for the program, but it was a great opportunity. Thankfully, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Taiwan for the second time and was able to accept. I spent the 2017-2018 school year teaching English in Taichung, Taiwan. All of these experiences would never have been possible without studying Mandarin Chinese and China. I encourage all of you to not be intimidated by the difficulty and instead dive in to a people, language, country, and culture that will shape the 21st Century. 加油!"