Student Spotlight: Benjamín Rascón-Gracia
WHS Student Shares Study Abroad Experience In China
Writer / Kelsey Musick
Benjamín Rascón-Gracia is a first-generation immigrant from Mexico and a junior at Westfield High School. For the last five years, he has been passionately studying the Mandarin Chinese language, and recently, he took his first trip to China. Multilingualism is heavily ingrained in his daily life, along with the value of hard work.
“Languages are something I love,” Rascón-Gracia says. “So, I always look forward to going to Mandarin class, even after a long day at school.”
Rascón-Gracia, who is fluent in both Spanish and English, credits his private teacher, Mrs. Daphne Wang, with a noteworthy portion of his success in the Mandarin Chinese language. According to Rascón-Gracia, Wang is an amazing teacher who helped prepare him for success in daily activities while in China.
A little over a year ago is when Rascón-Gracia applied for the language immersion program that brought him to China – the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages. The purpose of the program is to help students travel to the host country of their target language to study that language while immersing themselves in the country’s culture. Rascón-Gracia spent five weeks in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou after leaving Indiana at the beginning of June.
The 14-hour flight brought Rascón-Gracia to a host family, which he would stay with during his time in the foreign country. His temporary family consisted of a mother, father and brother – all of whom he conversed with daily and got to know on a personal level.
“Through them, I learned priceless aspects of Chinese culture and its beauty,” Rascón-Gracia says. “Through their food, regional dialect, work ethic, morals and general approach to life, I expanded my horizons from my small, local town to a large and diverse world.”
According to Rascón-Gracia, he saw his language abilities increase dramatically during his summer trip to Hangzhou. While he was there, he attended Hangzhou Number 14 Middle School with his classmates, a school he insists was one of the best in the city and province.
“The school was amazing and offered so many clubs and activities,” Rascón-Gracia says. “The Chinese value on education impressed me the most.”
Rascón-Gracia bonded with his classmates and insists that they are now some of his best friends. According to Rascón-Gracia, they went through a lot together and made many memories that he will not soon forget. While he made long-lasting friendships, he also found his independence.
“My independence grew as I found myself going to school on my own by subway, ordering food in a foreign language by myself, and of course, who could forget my Boba tea addiction? I bought one every day.”
In addition to learning new languages, Rascón-Gracia enjoys debate, mock trial and his online newsmagazine. Along with the extracurricular activities he concentrates on, Rascón-Gracia focuses a large amount of his time and energy on his academics, all of which are advanced or honors courses. And sometimes, the balance is hard to find.
“I won’t say it’s easy,” Rascón-Gracia says. “It’s rigorous, but it isn’t a challenge that can’t be met with hard work. My parents have always instilled in me the value of hard work, and my trip to China magnified that through their own culture.”