Printer-friendly version
Susan Volinski (Chinese '15)


Susan Volinski (Chinese ’15) participated in the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ (MIIS) Summer Intensive Language Program during summer 2012.


Monterey, California: home to a unique institution that focuses primarily on the study of international cultures and languages. The appeal of Monterey to Susan Volinski, a sophomore studying Chinese across the country at the University of Maryland? Not only is it the city where she spent much of her childhood, but the MIIS’ Summer Intensive Language Program is also there. When Volinski stumbled upon the program, she knew that it was for her, so in 2012 she applied and was accepted.

The Summer Intensive Language Program (SILP) was designed fifty years ago for the most motivated students of foreign languages. Like the newly offered SLLC Summer Language Institutes, the SILP is open to students of all skill levels nationwide. The program offers six languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. SILP runs for eight weeks, with classes that last 4.5 hours per day, five days a week. According to Volinski, the pace of the courses is breakneck: in the span of eight weeks, she and her classmates covered two textbooks’ worth of material, finishing a chapter every two days. She further explained that students spend a total of 180 hours in the classroom speaking—in her case, Chinese—their target languages. Outside of the classroom, Volinski says it is expected that they also spend 4-5 hours studying “in order to acquire and understand the grammar, nuances, and thinking processes” of their target languages. All courses offered in the SILP are eight credits each.

As a sophomore here at UMD, Volinski recognizes several factors that have influenced her life and shaped who she is today. Most notable among these is that she has been moving her whole life. Born in Russia, she moved to Monterey, California when she was six years old, then to Howard County, Maryland in eighth grade. The cross-continent and cross-country moves occurred largely due to her mother’s ability to speak multiple languages. She [Susan] “grew up speaking Russian, learned English as a second language, and then took Chinese on a whim and fell in love with the language.” Because Volinski has studied Chinese for three years now, and lived in Monterey during early childhood, she was eager to participate in the SILP, which is in one of her former hometowns.  She hopes to return to Monterey next summer for the language program again.

Another major factor that has shaped Volinski’s life is athletics. She says, “Sports were also a big part of my life—they helped me learn what commitment was,” and explains that she learned to discipline herself through high school sports as well. Recently, Volinski’s applied this same discipline to her studies, as well as running, which she describes as a means to clear her mind and focus.

Volinski is continuing her studies in Chinese, with the hope of possibly moving back to Monterey and pursuing work in elementary education. 



Tim Meehan (Germanic Studies '15)
SLLC Public Relations Intern