China: You won't know until you go..and even then, you won't really...Addicting in a diverse way. Past Review

By (Chinese Studies., Pacific Lutheran University) for

Pacific Lutheran University: Chengdu - PLU Gateway Program in China

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The language classes were great. Adam Cathcart's class was great, in particular the focus on the minority experience/Tibet. However, I really didn't get much out of the other classes. I learned it all before and at a much more meaningful level at PLU. The Sino-American relations professor was great but was not reflecting his full knowledge. The business class, after all the stress related to trying to get it, was a complete joke and waste of time (I'm sorry). It seems overall many of these special classes were not very stimulating overall.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The SCU student office was abysmally disorganized and slow. It should nto have taken until the end of October to finally get a promised business class, that in the end had to be crammed in during the last month and ended up teaching us nothing. Adam was originally quite disorganized, but I could see as time went on that he was really working hard to juggle all he was trying to manage, and in the end did it very successfully, mentoring several students in particular, establishing good contacts, doing good research projects, and teaching some fascinating material in addition to everything else. I respect what he did and feel that he should continue being the program leader. Not only was he interesting and engaging and bonded well with the other students on the trip (despite their diversity, numbers, and different needs), but also..he definitely first and foremost really knows China and Chinese, which is, I believe, necessary for a successful China program. If he's interested in continuing to be site director, I highly recommend the Wang Center keep him on board for this, because I think he's best suited for this job above all other PLU faculty.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I am overall satisfied with the housing, because the rooms were comfortable and convenient in terms of proximity to classes and because they were near East Gate and thus leaving campus, despite some practical issues such as toilets that constantly broke or not always having hot water..but this is a minor concern. I don't think we could have done much better...EXCEPT it is really too bad we couldn't have had host families. The nature of the international dorms was not one that necessarily fostered either leaving the "safe zone" and getting out and exploring, or having a good amount with Chinese culture (even meeting other international students via the dorms was difficult). Language immersion via host families would have been ideal, but I understand that this would be hard not only because of language abilities, but because as a PLU program, it would be harder for us to "come together" and all get the same information as well as be a support network for each other....also host family situations are just harder to find in China. I understand these realities, but if there are more ways to incorporate more meaningful interactions with people from the "host country,' then this would be great.

* Food:

Sichuan Province, in Chengdu. Enough said :)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The beginning trip and the trip to Tibet were absolute highlights, but I think overall it would be good if, in the event the size of the China group keeps getting bigger, that there can be an effort to arrange trips with smaller numbers of people. the big tour group size started becoming an annoyance to people, especially because it made us feel more distant from the culture and interacting with the new places. On one hand, I liked the independence of our group and that we could make the experience what we wanted it to be. I definitely benefited from the lack of structure and planning aside from these trips, but I think others could have benefited from more structure in terms of activities, whether that was volunteering, cultural exchanges, finding jobs, etc....especially if they were new to the language and thus it was harder to "navigate China" and its opportunities on their own.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt the best information I got came more from my parents' extra research and the knowledge of people who were either from Chengdu or who had studied before, including UW students. The health center was disorganized in its information, and I don't think the Wang Center really did enough to gather this kind of knowledge of past experiences from former Chengdu participants...and that's all it really would ahve taken. I feel if it weren't for my friends and personal connections, and what my family did to keep seeking out this information, I really wouldn't have known what I was in for.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

This is one of the largest areas the PLU program to improve in. There simply needs to be a larger emphasis on language - you can't do China nearly as much justice unless there is a strong investment in the language program. In fact, in terms of the quality of the classes, the best ones other than the Western/Minority experience were definitely the language classes. In the future, if there can be more of an encouragement for students to learn more of the language 1. Before registering for the program and 2. When registering for classes in the program, I think everyone will get more out of their experiences. the reason I felt my time in China was as rewarding as it was was because I wasn't starting relatively new in the language, but I could actually have decent conversations with a lot of different people. I know there was a lot of frustration within the group that many felt they couldn't get out of the international circle. While some of this may have been a matter of choice and initiative, not all of it was...some of it truly was the language barrier. There were lots of great people and students on this program, but I could tell that Chinese language abilities were dictating too much our experiences. In the future, I think it would be good to see this program progress to one more focused on language acquisition. There is simply no better way to see China than to prioritize language study. This could mean requiring some level of proficiency before applying (such as in the Oaxaca program...I understand though that the Chinese Studies program is significantly smaller...), as well as in simply requiring a greater attendance of language classes, both in terms of credits as well as in terms of the extra, non-comprehensive classes. If PLU wants its students to be involved in a true "global dialogue," then it must work harder to make sure that when its students are abroad, this dialogue is not just conducted in English in an "exported Lutedome."

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Make this program your own experience. Prepare yourself before you go by knowing as much about China, and in particular Chengdu and Tibet, before you go, so that when you get there, you won't have culture shock as much as you will just think "oh, that makes sense!". Similarly, don't "beware of China." Start by not fully trusting either what the government says or what your own media reports. As cliche as it is, just come with a fresh mind and be willing to create and seek answers to your own questions. And LEARN AS MUCH CHINESE AS YOU CAN. You'll feel much more confident getting around, in addition to being able to ask those questions in Chinese....And then you can get to REALLY living there. Change up what you do, and wh you're with, because not only do cliques cause drama, they can limit your ability to experience the true diversity of this place (but also...just try not to do something naively stupid, okay?). Oh, and DO buy a cell phone and a bike, and bring good sunscreen and altitude medication to Tibet. They will be your lifelines.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Western and Minority Experience

Course Department:
Instructor: Adam Cathcart/Greg Youtz
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Fantastic course!! Adam did a great job leading the lectures and keeping people invested and interested. Lots of opportunities to learn more on our own and make this project "our own," and when he felt things weren't working as well (such as some of the assigned readings), he encouraged us to research and find more out based on what especially picqued our interests in Tibet. The Tibet trip in general was a definite highlight, and Youtz also did a fantastic job organizing it and being an extra, seasoned instructor on the trip. KUDOS all around here. This is why I chose the PLU program over the others, and I don't feel this was an area in which I Was let down at all. Thanks.
Credit Transfer Issues: