Why did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in China specifically?
I wanted to be somewhere that would allow me to be out of my comfort zone. I am an Asian studies major with a China focus, and I knew that going to the actual country would enrich my knowledge in the area by experiencing the culture first-hand. It was incredibly rewarding to establish relationships with the locals and to be able to put my Mandarin language skills into practice. I choose CET because of the language pledge, which I think helped improve my Chinese significantly, and because of the option to have a Chinese roommate. This enabled me to acquire a deeper understanding of the culture. Finally, this program made sure to include various cultural activities throughout the semester.
Tell us about your study abroad experience in and outside of the classroom?
Inside the classroom: The professors were some of the nicest people I've met. They were very accessible and also interacted with us outside the classroom context. Classes were small (mine was four people!). The assignments were instructive and fun. A regular day consisted of going over the article or textbook piece along with the relevant grammar structures. Then there were dialogue drills followed by either classical Chinese or Chinese current events class. Finally, there was a one-on-one session some days of the week.
Outside of the classroom: The people in my program were very outgoing and making friends was very easy. We made numerous weekend trips to close cities together or went exploring Beijing. The Chinese roommates were also a huge part of the outside class experience, as they became part of the social activities. I played tennis everyday at Beijing Normal University and can say that I was an honorary member there. I made friends with the players, was able to see a traditional Chinese dorm, and had numerous opportunities to spend time with them outside of the tennis court. Traveling to the far-west of China was thrilling. I was able to visit Xinjiang, Lanzhou, and Qinghai and realized how different Chinese proviences can be from one another in terms of food, culture, and language among other aspects.
What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you academically and personally?
Academically, I was able to put into practice my language skills and see for myself many of the subjects I had seen merely on paper or textbook. Personally, my experience opened my eyes to not only the opportunities but many issues that are going on outside of the Bowdoin bubble. Studying abroad definitely made me see my home country differently. I value aspects of my Western lifestyle a lot more now including clean air and having access to toilet paper in public restrooms. It made me realize how much I take certain things for granted.
Does international work or travel figure into any of your future plans?
Yes, I will start working for a venture capital firm in Shanghai in August and intend on staying in China for at least 1-2 years.