Why did you choose this program? I chose the program right as I was wrapping up my second semester of Chinese, and I couldn't think of a better next step than to take the leap into the Middle Kingdom. That decision did wonders for my Chinese.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite two classes were Chinese Instruction & Ethnicity in Contemporary China. The Chinese language class introduced me to Shen laoshi, one of the best teachers I've ever met. She matched our American humor with spirit and I learned more Chinese in four months than I ever thought possible. The Ethnicity in Contemporary China course was taught on the road from Beijing to Tibet and there are no words to do it justice. The course material was useful, but the three weeks I spent with my friends traveling through China, exploring temples in Lhasa, camping in the Tibetan countryside, and sleeping under the stars in a Tibetan family's valley home will stay with me for the rest of my life.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? Our program offered two options: live in the IES building that also housed the courses, or stay with a Chinese family in a homestay. I lived in the IES building in order to be close to the other 35+ students and I ended up rooming with one of my favorite people in the program. The option to have a Chinese roommate was available as well.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Dive in! I worried and worried about the culture shock, the language intensity, and a wide variety of other possible ways to fail, but it turned out to be one of the great successes of my life both socially and academically. Jump in and be yourself. Be outgoing and make friends. Feel nervous but also have confidence! Studying abroad is a whirlwind unlike any other.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? I don't have one particular best memory, but the highlights were the connections I made with people.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? The program was completely different from the image/atmosphere I had in my head before I started. The reality of living in China was far more layered and adventurous than I could have known.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I learned from my experience with culture shock to take life there one day at a time. There are so many new people to meet and so many things to adapt to that it can be really overwhelming. Taking things one day at a time helped me focus and be present for all the experiences. Before I knew it, I had adapted.
“If I could do it over, I would…” Not do a single thing differently. All my mistakes and successes combined to form my experience there and I wouldn't change it for anything.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? There is a real world out there that doesn't rotate around me or my culture! The existence of the rest of the world just doesn't set in until you visit. It's crazy.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? Hmm, China is not very big on supplying toilet paper to public restrooms, so keep that in mind if you visit. Also, look for tutoring opportunities! Tutoring Chinese children is one of my favorite memories.
What was your greatest challenge? I think I was nervous in the beginning to really put myself out there...the whole experience can be intimidating. Once I decided that making friends and learning was more important, things fell into place pretty quickly. Everyone that attends college gets the campus experience. Choosing to go abroad takes courage, but it's 100% worth the effort.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Everyone that attends college gets the campus experience. Choosing to go abroad takes courage, but it's 100% worth the effort.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? China is a communist country with an authoritarian government. Scary, right? Not so much for study abroad students. The Beijing people are wonderful and enjoy interacting with foreigners. There's a cosmopolitan spirit to the place.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I attended a presentation that the office of Overseas Study provided. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of an HIEP grant.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I attended a presentation that the office of Overseas Study provided. I was lucky enough to be a recipient of an HIEP grant.