For the spring of 2012, I studied abroad in Beijing, China at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. The study abroad program I chose was the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). I lived in the student dormitory with around fifty other American students, along with our respective Chinese roommates. In order to let the students fully immerse into the Chinese culture, IES imposed a Chinese-only speaking rule in the dormitories. In addition, our Chinese roommates really helped to push students who are not comfortable with speaking Chinese outside of their comfort zones.
I took classes in Chinese history, government, international relations, and ethnic minorities in China. And although I originally came from Taiwan and can speak Chinese, I still gained a lot of knowledge about China that I did not have before. We were given three long weekends for independent travel, and during that time I went to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xian, and Zhangjiajie. These travels were great supplements to the knowledge I gained during class. The combination of experiences inside and outside the classroom definitely helped me gain a deeper understanding of China. I also was lucky enough to travel to Tibet during my class on ethnic minorities. I can only describe the experience as enlightening. I was really fortunate to be able to travel to a place that most people have only heard of, and to experience a culture that was so vastly different from my own.
My experience in China really changed a lot of my previous perspectives on China, and I definitely gained a lot of valuable knowledge. I would encourage all students to consider studying abroad in one of their semesters in UMBC. Take the leap, and you will see that there will be no regrets about your experience.