Geneva Thompson is a Senior studying Asian Studies, History, and Political Science at the U. She participated in the Intensive Chinese Language Program in Tianjin, China during the summer 2010.
This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Tianjin, CHINA!! I was so nervous about spending six weeks in a foreign country, barely knowing any of the language, but after a couple days I really got into the flow of things and had a blast! My suggestion for anyone who is planning on spending anytime in a foreign country is to really explore the area you are around and try to see how the locals spend their time. Go to some of the tourist areas and see some of the sites, but you have to actually see how the people there live to even begin to understand how people of the country you are visiting.
My friend and I while in Tianjin would get into a taxi and go random places all over the city, we would try to get lost and every time we were lost we learned so much about the people of Tianjin and so much about the language. I think I picked up more language trying to figure out how to get back to the university than I did in class. It was amazing!! The whole idea of going on a study abroad is to live and learn!! Every weekend we would try to go to Beijing, which was about a 30 minute bullet train ride away, to see another part of China and get a new and different experience.
The mentality you have to have when traveling on a study abroad trip is you are there to study so get a good grade, but at the same time you will learn a lot more if you actually go out and experience the area you are in. Don’t stay in your room the whole time and study, go out and really learn!! So my advice to you is study and get a good grade, but also go out, get lost and really force yourself to interact with people because that is where you learn language and culture. My Chinese language skills are much better because I went on this trip and it is because I was forced to use my language skills.
I really enjoyed my study abroad trip and because I know I was able to get around and survive six weeks in China, I now have the confidence to apply for a three month internship in China knowing I can travel and live in a foreign country. The study abroad program is an amazing program that allows people to not only learn a language, but experience a new culture and grow as an individual. So if you are thinking about going on a study abroad trip you should do it!! You really have nothing to lose and the world to gain!!