China Past Review

By (Sociology, Goucher College) for

USAC China: Shanghai - Chinese Language and International Business

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This experience was far more than just worthwhile. I've learned a lot from it about China and I've grown as a person. Most notably, I've learned just how much American culture has influenced so much of the world. Before coming I obviously knew we had an influenced many cultures, but to see American culture so pervasive here was somewhat shocking and saddening. I've also realized how much we don't understand about this country, about China. How quickly we judge this country and it's government, but we really don't know enough to judge the way we do. Having lived in China for a bit more than three months I'm not sure I do yet. Either way, I've come to really appreciate the country. Before the trip I had no plans for graduation. Zero plans and I graduate in May, but now I know I want to come back, to teach English for a year maybe two years. Overall, this experience has been more fulfilling than I could have hoped for.

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Standards are different. You are not expected to think for yourself, which is highly stressed at Goucher. The education system in China stresses memorization. As long as you keep this in mind going into a test setting you will do well.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

YouSha, the program director is extraordinary, she really takes the effort to get to know each individual on the trip. She knew me coming right out the airport, in fact had she not recognized me and called my name I would have walked right past her holding her the USAC sign. She takes her time to organize trips and dinners for the group and listens to our suggestions, even making many positive changes based on what we've said. She truly works hard at what she does and deserves a lot of the credit for why the Shanghai program is as successful as it has been so far.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

As mentioned already, China's living standards are different. The rooms are dirtier than at home, there are bugs and you have only a certain amount of electricity each month. There aren't any common rooms and the kitchens aren't really ideal for cooking. However, the rooms are single occupancy with their own bathroom, which is more than most college dorms at home. They are also in a good location, closer to many attractions than most other Shanghai campuses. It is also, nice to live in such close proximity to other international students. Overall, I was satisfied.

* Food:

Everything was delicious, but considering I never really ate in the dining hall (most students didn't), it is what you make it. You have to be willing to try things and go to places you thought you never would at home. The fact being that restaurants aren't as well kept in China as in the States, but the food is fine. Part of the experience is trying something new and if you're willing to do that you will not be disappointed. The street food, especially the noodle and burrito stalls are the tastiest and cheapest.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There are very few bad things I can say about my experience. I enjoyed the field trips, especially Xi'an. It was great having the opportunity to see cities other than Shanghai, I wish I had seen more.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt very safe. There were a few occasions where I had left things behind in a store or a classroom. Each time they were returned to me the next day when I went back to see if they were still there. I'm not saying you don't have to worry about theft or other crimes, it's a large city lock your doors, mind bags and pockets, but I never felt unsafe.

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 couldn't estimate exactly how much I spent, but definitely less than if I had been in the States.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Budget wisely. 100 yuan or 70 yuan doesn't sound like much for dinner when in American dollars 100 yuan is only about $15. But when you can get that same dinner for 6 yuan instead and spend the left over on entertain, it's better. Money is money and it still adds up quickly.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

I knew nothing going to China. Now I can effectively get into a taxi tell the driver where to go, order food, ask for directions and answer a few questions about where I'm from and what I'm doing here. The language component is intense, but highly effective.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

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  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

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  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

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A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Learn to bargain. If they offer 300 yuan, offer 40. If they get mad walk away, they'll call you back and more than halve their price instantly. Take every opportunity to experience the culture, go on all the field trips, travel on your breaks and pack light on your way here. Guaranteed you will come back with way more than you left with.