Reason you chose this program: I am studying Chinese, and this program is good for studying the language. It offered the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the language and culture, including scheduled travel periods both independently and with my classmates.

Describe the Housing Situation: The Nanjing University CIEE program offers the choice between living in a dorm with Chinese students or living in a homestay. I chose to live in a homestay because I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture and language 24/7. My shu shu (“uncle”) didn’t know a word of English, so I had to communicate with him in Chinese all the time. We had conversations about politics, culture and traveling every night at dinner. I lived about 20 minutes away from school by bicycle and biked there every morning. In China, there are bike lanes on the side of the road that are completely packed with bikes and motorcycles. Biking to school is an exciting—if scary for the first week—experience in and of itself.

Best Memory: To pick one memory would be impossible. We went on trips to Xiamen and Xinjiang as a group, and I stayed all summer and traveled independently through 15 provinces. My travels included many of my best memories. Traveling independently to Sichuan and climbing Mount Emei was one of my favorite experiences. It takes two days to climb the mountain, and you sleep on the mountain. I met many Chinese college students who were climbing the mountain on the weekend and climbed most of the way with them. Three of us shared a room below the summit then got up the next morning and summited before dawn and watched the sunrise.

Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: Going from college town Bloomington or suburbia America to a city of over 6 million people crammed into a high population density was quite a change. On the streets, people are walking everywhere, and you always have to watch out for bikes and motorcycles. Crossing the street is a challenge.

Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: There is no better opportunity to learn the language than to live the language and speak it every day. Apart from learning the language, the experiences are amazing, and you won’t experience real life Chinese culture anywhere else.

Greatest Challenge: Getting on the plane to leave. It was like I was waking up from a great dream.