Centre’s College study abroad program in Shanghai, China, is quickly becoming one of the College’s most popular foreign studies destinations, and the 10 Centre students taking part in the program this term have quickly realized why.
“With 1.3 billion people and more than 4,000 years of history, China has so much to see and experience,” Brian Klosterboer ’12 says. “It’s also a rising superpower in an increasingly global economy, and Mandarin is a valuable language to know when looking for a job in an international market.”
Courses in Mandarin (“Chinese Conversation”) are but one of the engaging subjects Centre students study while in Shanghai; others include Chinese culture and Asian economics.
While the program is particularly attractive to students who are interested in international studies, marketing or business; financial economics; modern languages; history; or anthropology—or those thinking about future careers in areas where spoken Chinese would be extraordinarily helpful—Centre-in-China is open to all students.
“Centre-in-China has been a really life-changing experience for me,” MaryKate Mahoney ’11 says. “While in my government and international trade classes at Centre we may read about events that happen over here, you can never really grasp the reality of anything until you’re experiencing it. This really is the study abroad experience I was looking for when I applied to go to China.”
Unlike the College’s regular long-term study abroad programs, no Centre professor lives and teaches in China. Instead, students take classes with other exchange students at Shanghai University’s Yanchang campus, an aspect of the program that many students find thrilling.
“I was surprised by how easy it is to make friends with other international students here,” Klosterboer says. “I’ve made friends with students from France, Germany, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Benin, and we all partner together to explore Shanghai and learn Chinese.”
He does admit that “it’s been an adventure traveling throughout China without a Centre professor. It’s difficult in that none of us speak the language very well, but it’s also rewarding to take risks and go out on your own. There are so many new foods to try, friends to meet and places to see, and every day is different. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Tasting new foods and exploring new regions is the norm for the Centre students living in China, and last week, many traveled around the country to celebrate the Chinese national holiday, celebrated annually on Oct. 1. (The Chinese celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China with a variety of activities, including fireworks and concerts.)
For the holiday, one group of Centre students is visiting Yichang, China, where they took a cruise down the Yangtze River to Chongqing. “On the way, we passed through the Three Gorges Dam and some of China’s most beautiful scenery, including mountains and gorges depicted on China’s currency,” Klosterboer says. “I also spent a night at a hostel in Chongqing and saw the Dazu Buddhist rock carvings, which are a World Heritage Site and feature 5,000 Buddhist carvings on the sides of caves and mountains.”
Another group of students headed to Beijing for China’s national day celebrations. Spending five days touring the city, the students “saw everything, from the Forbidden City to the Bird’s Nest (site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics) to the Great Wall,” Mahoney says. “Beijing is a wonderful city, rich with history which Shanghai seems to somehow lack in my opinion. While there is so much to do in Shanghai, I felt Beijing brought a different aspect—more culture and history could be found there. It’s not a city of all things new as in Shanghai.”
Having gotten a glimpse of Chinese life in two very different cities, Mahoney (like her fellow Centre students) is reluctant to leave the country—and eager to return later in life.
“In the future I see myself returning to this country, be it for work or travel,” Mahoney says. “People here are so proud of where they are from and what they have created as a country, and that’s something I really admire.”