- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
Before going to China, I was worried about not being able to communicate with others. I had taken a year of Chinese at UC Santa Barbara during my freshman year, but this was about three years prior to studying abroad. Needless to say, I was out of practice and had forgotten most of my Chinese. When I went to China, I could barely speak Chinese, and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with locals in case of an emergency. The curious thing about Beijing is that, despite being a big city, most of its population doesn’t speak English.Not knowing Chinese was not a big deal, however, because, within the first week of being there, most of my Chinese came back to me. I was also taking Chinese language classes 20 hours a week, so I was quickly improving and expanding my Chinese vocabulary. Additionally, I had a much easier time understanding the locals than I was expecting.
- What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?
I wish I had reviewed my Chinese textbooks from freshman year. That would have made communication a lot easier.
- What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?
My favorite class was 口语 (Speaking) because I found the material and vocabulary to be the most useful for everyday life in China. I also thought that this class wasn’t too challenging, but not too easy either.
- What is one of your best memories from abroad?
Sometime in October, I was walking with my friend Tom, who is from Germany, to 家乐福 (Carrefour). We had just gotten out of our classes and I think I needed shampoo or some other toiletry. This event wasn’t very significant itself, but I’m fond of this memory because I was really relaxed and was truly enjoying the moment as we walked down 中关村大街.
- What was your biggest challenge abroad?
Either 汉语课 (Writing-focused class) or figuring out how to close my bedroom window.
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
I loved food there! In China, food is very inexpensive and also very delicious.
- Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.
I didn’t since I was only there for one semester, but I wish I had the opportunity to intern while abroad!
- What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
I miss the street food, 煎饼 (jian bing). It’s a thin pancake made of flour and egg.
- How have you changed since your time abroad?
Now, I can speak Chinese more comfortably and confidently. My priorities seem to have shifted as well, since I have been spending less money on impulse purchases and eating out, and have been saving that money for traveling instead.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
I would recommend prospective students to participate in a program that involves foreign language immersion. While in China, I learned Chinese very quickly. This is because I was constantly surrounded by Chinese speakers and had many opportunities to observe how the words I learned in class were used in a real-life context.I would also recommend students to do a year-long program, if possible. At the end of my program, I didn’t want to leave.