After studying Chinese language and culture for more than seven years, Ose Arheghan’s studies as a first-year in women’s gender and sexuality studies and political science, culminated in a 10-day trip to China, provided by the Confucius Institute at Cleveland State University.
With funding from the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, a nonprofit organization with a mission to uphold the teaching of Chinese language and culture in the United States and inspire academic and cultural exchanges between students in the two countries, Arheghan was able to travel free of charge.
Following Arheghan’s completion of the program, a pilot program to send the institute’s alumni to China was put into place, making it possible for the students to witness the home they have found in Chinese culture in a physical way.
Arheghan, who identifies as gender non-binary and queer, got the email about the trip right after Halloween, asking if they wanted to travel to China for free. They have used studying Chinese to find an intersection between a culture they love and their dedication to defending the rights of the LGBT community.
“Going to China was really cool because my passions have always been aimed toward diplomacy, with a focus on human rights — LGBT students — making sure that minority students have voices,” Arheghan said. “Chinese was the language I took and was excited about, but I hadn’t really found the tie between my interest in advocacy and my interest in Chinese before my trip.”
Arheghan said their study of Chinese has helped them find a niche within any community.
As a junior in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Arheghan reached the highest level of Chinese language offered at their high school. Through the Confucius Festival, a celebration held by the institute, Arheghan has taken advantage of opportunities to share monologues, dances and other performances with students studying Chinese in the Cleveland area.
“Chinese has felt like the most consistent thing during my transition from high school to college,” Arheghan said.
After traveling, Arheghan developed the idea to work for human rights and diplomacy in China and hopes to work for the United Nations one day.
Arheghan said they would also like to study the LGBT counterculture in China but doesn’t quite have the language proficiency to do so yet.
“I want to look at more of the counterculture and the information that you can’t find in a textbook,” Arheghan said. “I want to bridge the gap between my passions for Chinese language and queer theory.”
Emmy Pascual, a first-year in international studies and Arhegahn’s classmate, said Ohio State is a space that positively supports the potential and progress of its students.
“Chinese classrooms are often tight-knit, creating a space for comfortable failure and growth,” said Emmy Pascual, a first-year in international studies, as well as Arehegan’s classmate and friend.
Arheghan hopes others will be able to recognize and appreciate the beauty in Chinese culture through the documentary footage gathered by the camera crew who accompanied the Confucius Institute alumni on their trip. The documentary is expected to be released within the first few months of this year.