Meet Joey Fritz: Pengyou Intern

Joey FritzHello! My name is Joey Fritz and I am an intern at Project Pengyou this summer. Culture and language have always been at the peak of my interests; Chinese, though, hasn’t always been in the realm of possibility.

When I was little I wanted to be just like my mom. One aspect of my mom’s life I had always admired was her passion for the language learning process. As a high school student, my mom took both Spanish and French, even though only one was required. I, naturally, decided to do the same. I found that although I shared her passion for learning languages, I didn’t desire to learn more about the cultures where those languages were spoken.

I had my first exposure to Asian culture in the summer following high school. A friend of mine asked me to work with her at a Chinese exchange camp hosted in my hometown of Cincinnati. I had no specific interest in the program and had planned to eat ice cream and watch TV all summer, but I reluctantly agreed. Little did I know that those two weeks would spark a passion for Chinese language and culture that has followed me ever since.

My academic interests became reality when I was lucky enough to study abroad in Beijing with IES in the fall of 2012, where I was set up to live in a Chinese homestay. I was so fortunate to be with a family insatiably curious about American culture and also open to sharing their own experiences as Chinese people. The dinnertime discussions that led to realizations of cultural differences were what made me fall in love with China and want to come back again this summer. I also really missed hotpot and jiaozi.

As I was looking at potential internships in China this summer, Golden Bridges jumped out to me because of its mission statement. Golden Bridges and Project Pengyou both relate directly to the experience that I had while in my homestay: mutual cultural understanding. Bridging those cultural gaps with my Chinese host parents provided me with an appreciation for China that I didn’t have before. If this mutual understanding can be achieved on a larger scale, only positive relationships will follow.

As a Project Pengyou intern, I already feel like a part of something meaningful. I hope not only to learn more about the U.S.-China relationship, but also to develop skills in writing, marketing and communication. I’m also curious about the nonprofit sector in China, something I have had no experience with prior to now. I’m excited to see what the summer has in store; knowing China, it will be an unpredictable, wild adventure!