China: The Experience Everyone Should Have (But Most are too Afraid to) Past Review

By (International Business., Towson University) for

Sichuan University: Chengdu - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
DO YOU HAVE ALL DAY? But really. It was so wonderful. I want to go back. There were so many things to experience and see. It was everything I wanted. You are treated so well by everyone. It forces you to speak the language but you can always find someone who can speak English or help you if you ever really need it. I want to work in China for international business. I'm thinking of going back to study another year while also teaching English. Half a year just doesn't feel like enough.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It was the most of what you make it. A lot of the other Americans would party every single night and still did fine in their classes. I took all the classes that were offered, regardless of whether they were counted as credits for my US university. My class was taught exclusively in Chinese. We got a substitute teacher for nearly 6 weeks of the program. I really hated that because she taught in the Chinese way: pure memorization. The other teacher taught grammar in a much more understandable way. It was an international class and not everyone knew English, so it forced us to communicate in Chinese. English could be used if we really didn't get it. We had homework every night but we never had quizzes. We had a midterm and a final exam. Some of the other levels were different. We had been placed by ability and I thought I was fairly placed. I really liked classes and I really miss it these days. The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed. I didn't feel pressured to be excellent. I found that a lot of what I learned was very applicable to life there. If I was taught a certain grammar structure or certain words, I usually heard it used that day by locals.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was a small but good amount of people. We all felt for isolated when it came to understanding what was actually happening at the university. The contact for my school was competent but in general we felt very disconnected from the rest of the university. It felt like I was an outsider living on their land. This did mean we were excused from a lot of things, but it also made us seem distant from the culture and the citizens. Although with effort, I was able to integrate myself to the level I wanted to achieve.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The real dorms were under renovation, so we stayed in a dorm-hotel thing. I really liked it. It had a great location in the middle of campus. We had a maid come in a couple times a week. We had western toilets and bath tubs (the only ones I saw in China). We had a fridge. There was a laundry machine and a place to hang our clothes to try on the roof. We were also in the same building as our program director. If we ever had a problem, it was very convenient to visit them downstairs. It was a small but cozy place with a good amount of space and storage areas. My only regret is that there was no kitchen, but it is very simple and cheat to eat in and around that area. I became very close to both the staff and the other students staying there.

* Food:

I had no problems with the food. It is spicy. It was annoying during the hotter parts of the early trip. I got a cold early on and decided to eat the spiciest foods to clear my sinuses. When I recovered, no food was too spicy. There are enough foreigner food places and of course classic American fast food. There is food on campus in the cafeteria for cheap, but I found it cheap enough to go off campus. It seriously only costs a few dollars per meal. My only regret is that we didn't eat bigger, more extravagant dinners more often. My friends and I tended to eat at the faster, homier food places. It is very easy to be a vegetarian here. It's so easy to not eat meat and still very delicious. Vegan and gluten-free may be harder to comply with. There were students that were both and they managed to eat enough.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Wow! Every weekend I traveled. My favorite were the hot springs in Emei shan and Chongqing. I even had fishies nibble away my dead cell skins! ATV karaoke was so fun with Americans and especially the Chinese (they are serious). I loved the moon cakes in the moon festival. There were so many pandas at the reserve! More than I expected. Emei shan and Leshan were gorgeous. I loved seeing the summit of Emei Shan and the Giant Buddha of Le shan. I also took a trip to Shanghai, where the night is gorgeous. For the Chinese Communist holiday, I traveled Yunan and went to the Jade Mountain and Three Gorges and ancient cities (they are everywhere). Buddhist temples are also very easy to visit. They are everywhere.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe. I do come from Baltimore though. There were plenty of police and although maybe the people looked kind of sketchy and especially the scenery, I never felt unsafe. There are security guards at the hotels and the school. Bicycle theft and pick pocketing are the worst crimes and I experienced neither. We did live a few blocks from a bar street where alcohol can make anyone violent. I saw fighting, but no knives and definitely no guns. Foreigners were never involved unless it was a fight among foreigners.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent so much money shopping and travelling! Food cost eight dollars a day to eat well. Everything was very cheap. Travelling was also cheap but I did travel ALOT. I also took a plane at one point.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Nothing was really unexpected, although hotels often asks you for more money to cover any damage that might happen. They give it back if everything is good. Be aware! Some places will take advantage of your foreign appearance! They will judge you and charge you more. I saw this first head to a very George Bush looking friend of mine.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginner's Chinese Level II
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Most people in Chengdu do not speak English...they also don't speak Mandarin but the Sichuan dialect. I studied one year of Chinese before I left. I wish I had studied another year because everything I learned, I used immediately. I ended up meeting Chinese people at English corner where they would practice English. It's easy to set up a meeting where one day is Chinese and the other is English. I really was forced to use Chinese everyday and it has made me into a better speaker. Although I am not fluent, I am much quicker to responding and comprehending what people are saying.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The location and the people
* What could be improved?
  • Directions. We never know what is going on.
  • Immersion. We need opportunities to meet with locals. Like clubs or school events.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It takes patience and understanding. It is a very different culture. If you can't overlook the differences, you will also never enjoy them. You can learn so much more in this program than one in Europe. It's like discovering an entirely new world (but still enough comforts so you're connected to home). Also, get a VPN so you can connect to Facebook and other things that may be blocked. But it also a great experience to live without those connections. Don't abuse the internet. One of the girls here always skyped and watched TV on the internet. She wasted her trip and she ended up hating it. You have to get out. Go to the market because that is where culture is purest.