Name: Kelly Long
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Traverse City, MI
Program: Chinese Language and Culture in Harbin, China; Summer 2011
My study in China this past summer was truly a fantastic experience that I will never forget. I chose to do this program in order to improve my Chinese level and also gain valuable experience living abroad. I felt these two aspects would be helpful in finding a job in the future.
With over 20 hours of language classes a week, this program was very challenging. But the classes were also a lot of fun. My class had students from all over the world including Korea, Russia, Thailand, and Brazil. Very few of them could speak English so the common language spoken among us was Chinese, which at first seemed like a daunting task, but it ended up being very helpful in improving my Chinese. We all became very good friends despite the language barrier.
I also learned a great deal about Chinese culture through tutors we were assigned at the beginning of the program. The tutors were Chinese students attending the university where we studied. They were so helpful in getting us accustomed to our new environment. This really showed me how much the Chinese value showing hospitality toward guests. Another cultural learning experience came when I accompanied my tutor back to his dorm room. He shared an extremely small room with three other students he had been living with for the past three years. I could not believe four people lived in such a small space, but when I saw the roommates talking with each other they all seemed perfectly content with their situation. I could also tell right away they were very close to each other by the way my tutor introduced them. He was so excited to tell me of his roommates’ academic achievements and what they planned to do after graduating. I remember thinking that a room this size with four roommates in a U.S. university would be a disastrous situation. No one would be able to stand each other after a month. But these four Chinese students had been living like that for three years, and they all really enjoyed each other’s company. From this experience in the dorm room I learned how friends in Chinese culture treat each other as if they were family. These four roommates acted like brothers to one another.
I know studying in China will be one of my greatest memories of college. The program provided me with such a great opportunity to learn Chinese and also learn a lot about Chinese culture. Understanding and living in a foreign culture has helped me to become more accepting of our world’s diverse customs.