What is your major?
Sociology & Anthropology with a minor in Chinese.
I wanted to supplement my SOAN studies by taking classes about Chinese society and culture while also studying Chinese language for my minor. I also wanted to have the experience of living in a foreign country--before coming to college I had the opportunity to travel a lot, but I had never been overseas longer than a week or two, so I wanted to see what it was like to be in a foreign country and not be a tourist.
Why did you choose China: Chengdu?
I chose Chengdu because I wanted to do a general culture program rather than language intensive and I was interested in the academic focus. The Chengdu program focuses on the conditions in Western China, particularly the experiences of ethnic minority groups. We had the opportunity to travel to Tibet and had a class about Sino-Tibetan relations, which was really eye opening. Finally, Chengdu is in China's Sichuan province, a region noted for having the best food in all of China!
I lived in Sichuan University's foreign students dorm with an American roommate from Pacific Lutheran University (the host school for the program). The dorms were pretty nice--all had private western-style bathrooms and some even had separate living rooms and bedrooms. They are definitely a step down from LC's dorms, but as soon as you see what Chinese undergraduate dorms look like, the foreign students' dorm looks amazing. There are also shared kitchens on every floor, a rec room/ping pong room, and a rooftop with a really nice view.
Highlights/challenges of the program
Because you will live in a foreign students' dorm and take classes with other foreign students, it can be difficult to meet Chinese people if you don't make an effort. This has pros and cons--it was really cool to meet people from all over the world, but on the other hand, we didn't get to practice Chinese as much as if we had been living with Chinese students. The program did a good job of matching us up with Chinese students to show us around, though, so this wasn't a huge deal. We also went to the school's English Corner (a weekly meeting for people to practice English) and met Chinese friends there. It was really cool to see how our Chinese skills improved over the semester--toward the end, I would notice all the times I knew how to say things that I had no idea how to say earlier in the semester. Also, learning how to get around and fit into Chinese culture was incredibly rewarding. Chengdu has a really great expat community, so if you are looking to go back to China and find a job after graduating you can do some good networking.
Advice you wish you had been given before going on your program
Bring clothes that are a little too small for you--there are no dryers and Chinese washing machines are really intense, so your clothes will stretch out a lot over the semester. Speak Chinese with your American friends. The best way to learn a language is to practice all the time, and if you agree to speak only Chinese on certain days of the week you will improve much faster. Last--don't be picky about food. Chances are, strange-sounding things will be delicious. You probably will eat some gross things, but then you can brag about it later (my grossest have been a chicken gizzard and a still-alive bee larva).
The Chengdu program is awesome--I highly recommend it!
If you have any questions for Clare, you can find her on the Ask An Alum Moodle page by clicking this link.