Name: Brad Seegert
Major: Mechanical Engineering and Chinese
Hometown: Farmington, MI
Program: Chinese Language and Culture, Harbin, China; Summer 2013
My study abroad experience in Harbin this summer was nothing like I imagined it would be, granted I didn’t really know what to expect in the first place. Not only was I able to travel outside of the country for the first time in my life and see all the famous tourist sites in Beijing and Shanghai, but I also experienced first-hand the lives of college students halfway around the world. From a language learning perspective, being completely immersed in the foreign language is the fastest way to learn. Studying in a country where the language is spoken allows you to see how certain phrases and words learned in the classroom are actually used in daily life, which is the only way to completely understand and learn a language. What will always stand out the most to me about the experience, however, is what I learned about the culture, and a way of life that is very different from mine in America, but at the same time surprisingly similar. China’s rich cultural history, along with codes of honor and fortune, is very much alive today, but on campus Chinese students spend their time studying math and sciences, hanging out with friends, and playing basketball. One thing I discovered while in Harbin is that younger Chinese people love basketball. From morning until night, the campus basketball courts would be packed with students. A few of my Chinese friends got me into a game, and although their style of play is different from what I’m used to (they rarely take 3-point or even mid-range jump shots…which unfortunately is my whole offensive game) they are largely influenced by the NBA, and know all the stars. The cafeterias were packed when the NBA finals came on. While playing sports with a group of people who don’t speak your language, you often have to rely on other ways of communication, and the fact that we, from opposite sides of the world, were able to effectively play a sport that we love was amazing to me. It makes the world seem smaller, and showed me that despite seemingly vast cultural differences, we’re not that different after all. And, of course, I was able to learn basketball terminology in Chinese, something that unfortunately is not taught in the classroom. I had so many great experiences and met so many great people during my ten weeks in China, and although this particular program was a ton of hard work and definitely not a vacation, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I could sit in classrooms learning Chinese for the rest of my life and not have the understanding of the culture and daily life that I now have, and that is truly why this study abroad was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.