Nick Tursi to travel to China for International Final Chinese Proficiency Competition

Nick was invited to compete in this international final competition due to his previous success.

Left to right, Li Li and Nicholas Tursi

Nicholas Tursi began studying Mandarin seven years ago while in sixth grade at Moorestown Friends School. Today, as a senior at the school, he was invited to compete in the 9th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students in Kunming in Yunnan province, China., from Friday, Oct. 14 to Monday, Oct. 31.

“In middle school, we had a choice of taking Spanish, French or Chinese, and were required to take a quarter of each before we made our decision,” Tursi said. “After having the quarter of Chinese, I was captivated by how different the language was from English and thought it would be a fun challenge.”

Due to his previous success this past March in the advanced category of the Chinese Bridge Speech Contest for U.S. High School Students at The Confucius Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Tursi was invited to participate in the contest abroad on Friday, Sept. 9 when he was sent an email from the director of the Chinese Bridge competition inviting him to compete in the two-week international competition. He was one of only four American students asked to compete.

Funded by BanHan, the sponsoring organization of the Chinese Bridge competition, Tursi made the trip to China alongside MFS Mandarin teacher Li Li, his teacher during his sophomore year. Tursi cited Li, along with MFS teachers Ahnam Chu and Cathy Wang, and former MFS teacher and his current tutor Cindy Huang, as being instrumental in his learning of the language. He recalls their teachings as having opened his eyes to worldly opinions and ways of thought, as well as putting his global point-of-view in perspective.

Tursi’s trip to China began in Beijing with a tour of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and a visit to The Confucius Institute headquarters. Then, on Oct. 17, he arrived in Kunming for the final competition, where he and the other contestants were tested on their language proficiency, knowledge of China and Chinese culture, and their comprehensive learning ability and application skills.

Out of 91 teams from 86 countries, Tursi and his partner Sophie Kaplan, a junior at a public school in Maryland, first made it to the top 30 overall and the top six in both North and South America. To achieve this ranking, he was evaluated on his computer testing of language and culture, speeches and dialogue, and a cultural presentation. Although Tursi did not make the top 10, he was thrilled with his performance and honored to have been invited.

“I tried my best and had a ton of fun. In the end, I was awarded a Certificate of Excellence, made it to the semi-finals, was in the top 30 out of more than 90 teams and was awarded a half-year scholarship to a Confucius Institute-affiliated university in China,” Tursi said.

In addition to the competition, contestants also engaged in a variety of cultural activities in the city. Through exploring the local community, they were able to apply their Mandarin language skills in real-world settings, as well as see how they intertwine with the intricacies of the Chinese culture.

“[The culture and the language] have certainly evolved together over time, and the depth of the culture needs to be supported by an intricate language. In that sense, they complement each other nicely,” Tursi said. “Also, much of the culture is contained within the language and vice versa.”

Tursi hopes to continue his Mandarin education by taking classes in college or studying abroad. Although he plans to attend college and focus on natural sciences to eventually pursue a degree in medicine, Tursi values his knowledge of Mandarin and hopes to someday find a job that has a Chinese component to it.

“The ability to speak Mandarin is a unique opportunity, and I would like to utilize it in the future,” Tursi said.