By Natalia Asis, Secretary
Travelling to China has been an unforgettable experience for some students from the University of Maine at Farmington who had a firsthand experience in 2013. Rachel Anderson a creative writing senior, Audrey Morin an International and Global Studies (IGS) alumni, and Sara Williams, an IGS junior, spent a semester at the Beijing University of Technology (BJUT).
Chinese was one of the most important factors that made them choose China as their study-abroad destination. “I studied Chinese (at UMF),” said Morin. “After studying French for 5 years I was bored and ready for a challenge. Also due to China becoming more powerful, I thought learning how to speak Mandarin would be a good asset for the work world.”
“After taking three semesters of Chinese, four or five of us said ‘we want to keep doing Chinese,’ so we got an independent study,” said Anderson. “We wanted to go learn Chinese in China.” Both Williams and Anderson claimed one of their best memories at BJUT was getting ready for dance recitals. “Rachel Anderson and I performed a dance at the BJUT Halloween party!,” said Williams. “We made up this crazy routine starting with a traditional Ukrainian folk song and ending with a popular KPOP dance. It was insane but there we were, six people from three different continents wearing masks so it made sense that it was crazy!,” said Williams. Anderson agreed saying, “It was really close-knit and comfortable, all of this cultures coming together.”
When Morin looks back at her days in Beijing, she remembers going around the city confidently. “The thing that stands out the most to me is how brave I felt navigating the huge city of Beijing alone,” said Morin. “I felt comfortable even though I have always lived in a small town. It made me feel free, and I think that’s something that I will never forget.” However, good things and not-so-good things happen when you live abroad. “I lost my debit card, almost missed my flight home, and had an evil roommate!,” said Williams.
One of the biggest challenges for Morin was speaking Chinese. “As you can imagine, the language barrier was difficult, I studied Chinese for 3 semesters at UMF before going abroad, but when I arrived in Beijing I felt very overwhelmed,” said Morin. “I studied very hard while I was there because I was filled with determination to be able to communicate well. I would always tell myself, 加油 (jia you, meaning keep fighting, or literally, add fuel).”
As for Anderson, the memory of a dangerous event is one of the unforgettable moments she will never forget. “There’s a trail (in the Great Wall) that goes around the wall that’s really, really steep and it’s kind of dangerous because the trail is like this narrow, one foot in front of the other, and basically I froze in one spot because I thought ‘if I fall, I’m going to die,’” said Anderson. “It was terrifying.”
Studying abroad has impacted all of these students differently. “I am definitely going to have Chinese present in my life forever,” said Anderson.
“I’d like to say that I’m braver about some things now, because China is one of those places that is so foreign that you have to just expect and prepare for anything,” said Williams. “Studying abroad can be challenging, but when you leave, not only do you feel stronger, but you miss your host country!
“After studying abroad, I feel like I can truly do anything that I set my mind to,” said Morin. “I loved the challenge of learning the language and culture, which added to my natural passion for international education. I hope I can travel to many places in my life, not just as a vacation, but to learn about different ways of life and to connect with people through their native languages,” said Morin.
“Half of the time, you’re still unprepared! But you learn to deal with it,” said Williams. “When I’m on the verge of freaking out, I tell myself “hey, you’ve got this. If you can survive China you can do anything!”