Kitty Chu, Shanghai

KittyatZhouZhuangI learned: I learned how to communicate better with my peers because I am usually very shy and quiet. It definitely improved my speaking skills both in English and in Chinese. I’ve made a lot of friends inside and outside the program. Coming to a Shanghai gave me a chance to speak to the locals and improve my listening and speaking skills.

I was surprised by: I never thought I’d be so attached to this program when I first came here. I didn’t know anybody except for two friends in the beginning, but everyone in the program got very close, especially the people in our class. It was such a friendly environment because the teachers, the tutors, and even the Chinese people were so welcoming and understanding. This trip made me want to come back to Shanghai again during my junior year for an internship and made me realize how much I really wanted to pursue a Chinese minor.

The hardest part: The hardest part of my experience was definitely communicating with the Chinese people. Because I am of Chinese decent, everyone assumed I was able to speak Mandarin. I can speak Cantonese, but I never learned Mandarin until college. People would walk up to me in supermarkets or stores and start talking to me really quickly. I often have to ask them to repeat it twice to fully understand them. When they found out I couldn’t speak fluently, they did not often understand why.

The best part: The best part of the experience was learning to become independent. I’ve learned to manage my time more efficiently. I would plan to wake up earlier to study before class, and cook breakfast for myself. Getting an apartment with only two other roommates also improved my communication and problem solving. If any problem arose, we looked for solutions together. Our teamwork kept the house tidy and clean.

My tips: The best tip for students coming here is to try and adopt to their culture. I think once you step out of your comfort zone and start stepping into the shoes of the locals, you’ll not only learn a lot more about the Chinese culture, but also broaden your knowledge and see the world in a different perspective. Also, don’t be afraid to speak in Chinese. Practice makes perfect. Getting it wrong will only help you improve.