M A N D A R I N   S U P E R S T A R

Krista McJarrow-Keller

Duke Kunshan University, China

Age: 19

From: Palmerston North

Proficiency: HSK2

Krista is currently living in Kunshan (Jiangsu Province, China) and is one year into her study at Duke Kunshan University (DKU).


Krista was awarded a four-year friendship city tuition scholarship at DKU last year and is the Palmerston North Youth Ambassador to Kunshan.


As part of her study, she has been studying Mandarin intensely and has also taken active roles in the Student Leadership Development Program and as Editor of the DKU student magazine.


When did you start learning Chinese?  

One year ago, when I moved to China for university. Through compulsory classes at my university alongside talking to people in Chinese around me my Mandarin has improved considerably (from a base of nothing at least)! 


What inspired you to take up the language?  

The chance to study in China, and to learn about the culture alongside the language. At my university Chinese classes are only compulsory for two years, but I intend to take them for all four years so I can become as fluent as possible in my time in China.  

Tell us about your Chinese language learning journey?  

It's been quite difficult! Learning a language is hard for me, but I definitely reached a plateau where I had a basic grasp, and from there I've been pretty motivated to learn the language. Being surrounded by Mandarin everyday also helps a lot! 


What has been the most unexpected or rewarding part of the experience? 

Realizing I am unlocking the ability to communicate with about 1 billion more people on the earth, and surprising myself with how quickly I can pick it up with hard work and dedication. 

What do you like most about Chinese culture?  

Hospitality and the philosophy. I love being fed with so much generosity wherever I travel in China by the families that I get to visit! Also, being able to learn a completely different mindset that evolves from Confucian philosophy rather than Western philosophy and learning more about my own mindset by comparison has been really interesting. 


What are the most striking differences between Chinese and Kiwi culture?  

New Zealanders are a lot more laidback than Chinese people, where everything has maximum effort and is done according to a specific set of rules or plans and happen on time. Things are a lot more casual in New Zealand, and Chinese culture places a lot of value on working very hard 


Why do you think other New Zealanders should learn Chinese? Do you have any tips for those thinking of taking up the language? 

Yea absolutely they should. My tips would be to talk to as many people who are native speakers as possible as practice. That's how a lot of foreigners living in China do it, and a lot of times I've been engaged in conversation on the subway by Chinese nationals wanting to do the same practicing technique in English with me. Listening to Chinese songs or getting into TV series could help too! Also, don't neglect your tones they're super important.