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2 posts from June 2017

06/07/2017

Studying Abroad in Nanjing - By Sophie

 

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CIEE Spring 2017 Graduation Picture  

My time at the Nanjing Language and Culture Center has really provided me the opportunity to not only learn Chinese in a classroom setting, but to interact with various aspects of the Nanjing city community, whether through taking extra classes studying Chinese cultural activities, volunteering at a local elementary school teaching English, weekly excursions to different locations in Nanjing, living with a Chinese roommate, or simply by living in the heart of the city. Similarly, Nanjing’s convenient location and the existence of China’s high-speed train network provide numerous travel opportunities. One of the most interesting and influential travelling experiences for me personally has definitely been our program’s weeklong excursion to Guangxi Province in southeast China. Organized by our program coordinators, the trip was specifically designed to travel to a number of locations that were different not only in the area of the province they were located, but in their distinguishing cultural and historical characteristics. We began our trip in Longji, a village situated in the picturesque “Dragon’s Backbone”—a stretch of mountains dotted with rice terraces laid out in a spiraling, ribbon-like pattern. In Longji, we stayed overnight with members of the village and got to eat their homemade food, observe daily life on the rice terraces, and pick some famous Longji tea for ourselves. As someone who lives near many farms in the Midwest, I was not expecting to be able to observe an agricultural-based lifestyle that was so different from what I commonly see near my home. As a village based primarily on agritourism, Longji preserves its old rice cultivation techniques and cultural practices specific to the Zhuang ethnic minority group that makes up most of the population. Being able to visit and observe Longji’s environment and lifestyle was truly an opportunity that I never expected to have when coming to China, and visiting an area so different from Nanjing really allowed me to understand firsthand the diversity, size, and cultural richness of China as a whole.

As we continued our excursion in Guangxi, we visited a number of other places that also espoused very different environments and cultural characteristics than the others. We rode on rafts down the Li River, famous for being prominently featured on the Chinese twenty-yuan bill, and travelled to Beihai, a coastal city famous for its seafood. Perhaps the most different from Longji, however, was our last day of travelling to Weizhou Island. Aside from near constant beach access and a bustling seafood trade, Weizhou Island is also home to a Catholic church built on the island in the late 1800s. The difference between Longji and Weizhou Island alone were frankly astonishing—we had travelled for our entire trip completely within the same province, but had started in a mountainous region amongst rice terraces and ended near a Catholic church built on an island. Visiting such a variety of locations really allowed me to interact more deeply with China’s culture and diversity within the span of a few short days, as compared to the busy city life in Nanjing to the north. As a part of my study abroad experience as a whole, this trip will really stand out as one of the more memorable facets of my studies.

My Spring in China - By Nhu

I am not “a group of friends” person, which discouraged me from studying abroad in the beginning. But I soon realized the importance of learning a 3rd language in order to build a satisfying and rewarding career in the long run. So, I decided to challenge myself and go for it. I chose China as my study-abroad destination, where the spoken language is neither my first nor my second language, a place where everyone was a stranger to me. During this 3-month semester abroad in China, I felt the communication barrier, homesickness, and overload of classwork. Sometimes I let this depression get on top of me and push me off course. However, the most fortunate thing is that CIEE was able to share these difficult moments with me. My first impression about Nanjing was that it had a convenient public transportation system, nice people, cheap delicious cuisines, and high-street security. I was quickly welcomed and treated as a family member by CIEE staff and Chinese local students.

I believe that, for most of the students living in a foreign country, the hardest part of life abroad is adjusting to the unfamiliar ground, and becoming a part of the local culture. CIEE understood our difficulties, and helped us get through these moments to be more accustomed to the local lifestyle. They set up everything prior to our arrival. I could say that the first week with CIEE was a major first step in helping me leave my comfort zone. They organized on-site orientation in order to teach us to be safe in China. Following that, they introduced us to Chinese local students, who were also our roommates and tutors. These locals not only played tremendous roles in my Chinese studies, but also in a daily life while abroad. I felt that it was scary to speak the local language while abroad since I was a stranger. However, having those Chinese friends around, I learned to be more patient and confident when practicing my Chinese. I also felt more respectful and humbled to understand the local culture. Every time I wanted to try new cuisine at a local restaurants, go shopping, or go anywhere for entertainment, the only answer I got from my Chinese friends is, “我陪你走! (I will go with you!). They do not hesitate to try my favorite food, and spend time with me.  Most importantly, they were always there for me when I faced problems.

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Thanks again CIEE, for connecting me with new friends, new lifelong friends!

Besides my Chinese friends, I could not disregard the CIEE staff as they were the best part of CIEE. Although, we had a big difference in age, I never felt misunderstood in our communication. They were always willing to stay young, active, and socialize with us. Since the CIEE offices and activity rooms are located on the same floor as the student’s dorm rooms, it was convenient to drop by their office to have a cup of tea, a little chat, or just ask for some advice about any problems we were facing with studies and life. Even though I live with my homestay, and usually do not have time to drop by their office, CIEE staff members would come down to my class to say hi, and check in with me. Other than that, they were available 24/7 on phone, as I could call them anytime I wanted. These things made me feel safe, and I felt my voice was always heard.

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What made CIEE different from other organizations was that they stressed importance in helping us enrich our knowledge and experiences while abroad. Some of the ways they do this is by organizing field trips around the cities with local Chinese students every Friday and a long excursion trip to the west of China. I was also offered different elective classes including Tai chi, calligraphy, as well as the opportunity to contribute my service to the community through volunteering teaching at a local elementary school. In this semester long journey, not only did I learn a lot about China’s cultural traditions and society through classes and trips, but also cultivated practical experiences in the field of teamwork. I had to work with others in most activities, so I had to practice good attitude and behavior towards my peers and Chinese friends. I did this by looking after them and I was also always willing to help my teammates. I believe that, I ended this abroad journey better off than when I started it. It was all about cultivating richer knowledge and experiences through exploring the landscape, art, culture, and relationships.

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Thanks CIEE for sharing ups and downs, despair and repair, smiles and frowns, moments that make everything to this valuable and memorable study abroad journey worthwhile. Showing me the value of growing independently, confidently, appreciating cultural differences, and making me feel at home. I look forward to having my next study abroad trip in other countries shared with you, CIEE. All I want to do and always love to do is #Throwing❤toCIEE

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