Jackie P., China – Peking University (Linguistics)

My year abroad was the best year of my life; I improved my language skills, made life-long friends, completed two internships, solo-traveled, and networked with people from all around the world!


What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

I took classes to help improve my Chinese. I spent around four hours every day in grammar class, writing class, and speaking class. It was like the Chinese classes here on campus just more intense and little English.

What was your favorite class abroad? 

I have always found Chinese grammar a bit difficult, so I took a class just on grammar. It was challenging, but really helpful and useful.

Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience.

I did two internships during my year abroad. The first one was for JingJobs, a job listing platform for ex-pats. I would try and find potential applicants for jobs and also create weekly events for business professionals in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

The second internship was teaching migrant children English. I taught around twenty 4 to 5-year-olds (including their parents) the English alphabet, simple words, and American games (musical chairs, for instance). I loved it and was impressed with how excited and eager both the children and parents were about learning English.


How would you describe your host institution?

My host university was beautiful! There was a wonderful lake, classical Chinese buildings, and lots of cafes and other places to eat. They even had a grocery store on campus!

Everyone was super friendly and helpful. There was a large hall where international students could hang out and study, which I found very helpful when studying for tests.

Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

I joined the Cat Club! You can join clubs like the Skateboard Club, Dance Club, Ping-Pong Club, Model UN, etc. They have a day where all the clubs are lined up in a main walkway so you can visit any booths you are interested in.


Describe your housing situation.

I lived across campus in the Global Village. It was amazing! I got my own room and shared a bathroom with one other girl. My rent was super cheap compared to IV and the rooms were much cleaner and organized. The Global Village had an underground rec area where you could do bowling, karaoke, swimming, handball, etc. It was so fun and so convenient. They also had a little store where my friends and I would walk over and buy ice cream almost every night!

There was a cafe and library also in the vicinity. We watched the World Cup games there!


Where did you eat most of your meals?

Most people get take-out. It is extremely cheap and useful! The delivery fee was $1 at most, and would come within an hour! I got Domino’s Pizza, Subway, Japanese food, and of course Chinese food, delivered.

How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

I could eat for around 45 cents in the cafeterias (white rice and sprouts) but some meals would be more, around $2.

Often I would go to an international market and spend $60 buying bread, cheese, pasta, chocolate, chips…The prices were a bit more expensive than here, but it was totally doable. Certain fruits like dragon fruit or kiwis were cheaper in China yet strawberries were super tiny and around $7!

Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

I am a picky eater, so food was the most difficult part about my time abroad. However, I survived and found my favorite dish: scrambled eggs, rice, and tomatoes. Most of the food in Beijing has pork in it, but there are vegetarian options. Just make sure when you order that you are prepared in case it does come with pork despite it saying: “vegetable fried rice.”

Describe your most memorable experience abroad.

I don’t even know what to write! I made so many amazing friends who I still keep in touch with two years later! Every day I miss China and I do plan to move back after graduation.

I love shopping and would often go to Xidan, a shopping mall area. Instead of going to the expensive, name-brand stores I would go to the bargaining stalls. There were malls six stories tall of just little shops where you can find anything you might want. I loved haggling because I got to improve my Chinese speaking skills! Plus, saving money is always fun!


Describe your host city.

Beijing is AMAZING! There was always something to do and I barely even got to see all of the city during my year there! You can go shopping at expensive stores, go to market stalls and bargain for clothes, go visit ancient temples and palaces, go to the zoo, go to a park, enjoy the nightlife of Sanlitun, and so, so much more!

Was it easy to get around?

It was much easier to get around in China than in California! The subways were super cheap and the taxis were SUPER cheap. Sometimes when I was lazy I would take a taxi to Wudakou, the student area where there are clubs, malls, karaoke, and more. It would’ve been a twenty-minute walk but for less than a dollar, why not get a taxi?

Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

It is shocking, but I actually felt safer walking around Beijing than I do walking around here. Just be aware of your surroundings and keep your money and phone in front of you or hidden.

Cars do not stop for pedestrians so don’t keep both headphones in because you always need to be in the zone and on your feet. Sometimes they will drive vespas on the sidewalks and honk at YOU to get out of their way. Don’t take it personally if people honk at you, it is just a friendly way of letting you know to watch out.

What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

SHOPPING! I also visited cat cafes and pet lots of cats. It was beautiful. There is so much to do. I never got to it, but there is a Watermelon Museum somewhere. Just a whole museum dedicated to watermelon.


Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

No matter the temperature outside – it could be 105 F – they will serve you hot water. Even if you ask for ice water, they might give you lukewarm water if you are lucky. Hot water is apparently ‘good’ for you and also is safer since all the bad stuff was boiled off. It was frustrating if I accidentally ate something super spicy because the water was super, super hot, probably just off of the stove.

How did you handle culture shock?

I knew the food would be the hardest part to adjust to so I brought a whole suitcase of American snacks. I also would talk with the friends I made there if I ever felt culture shock because they too most likely had felt the same way some time or another.

What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

I love everything about China! There is so much to write about China that I can’t possibly explain it all here. One thing that I really appreciated were how extremely friendly and helpful the locals were! Even when I didn’t need help they would come up and ask me in English!


Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

The Chinese Winter Break is around seven weeks long so I got a flight to Australia for around $400 roundtrip (it’s normally $1200+ from SF or LA) and spent the time solo-traveling the country! In addition, I spent two weeks volunteering at a bat hospital in Queensland! It was amazing and my first solo-trip! Since then I have traveled to Thailand, Iceland, England, Scotland, and Japan!

I also got to see my first wild cockroach! I have seen them in zoos but never in the wild. It was scary but I felt like the large huntsman spiders were just as scary since they can move extremely fast.


What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

The only thing I was worried about was finding food I would eat. It did take me a while but I got the hang of using the take-out apps and ordering exactly what I wanted. I brought Poptarts with me and enough American food to last me a month because I knew it would take some time to find food that I would eat.

What was your biggest challenge abroad?

Like I mentioned above, the food was the most challenging part. American Chinese food is sweet, includes chicken, and has lots of vegetarian options (fried rice, chow-mein, pot-stickers) yet in China most of those dishes included pork. Also, Northern Chinese food is spicier than the south so be prepared!

How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I became way more independent as a result of my year abroad. I can now handle travelling on my own (I actually prefer it!) in foreign countries. In addition, I am more confident in myself and more sociable! I have made connections with people all around the globe and hope to use those networks in my future endeavors!

What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Go outside of your comfort zone! You don’t have much time to be homesick because there is always something to do! I would recommend going to a place you might never have pictured yourself going (Africa, Asia, Middle East) because this is the one chance you have to have a huge support group (UCEAP staff, other UCSB students…) who can help you with any problem you might have! There are so many amazing opportunities with UCEAP, so make sure you take advantage of them! Stay on top of your deadlines and ask returnees for tips/tricks about their time abroad!

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