Studied abroad: My program, Chinese Culture and Ethnic Minorities, is run by the School of International Training (SIT). It was primarily based in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province in far southwestern China. I spent three months in Kunming and one month doing an independent study project in Shangrila, a Tibetan city in Yunnan.
Why China? I was taking Mandarin at Macalester, and I figured the best way to gain fluency would be to go to the country where Mandarin is spoken. Also I had long wanted to visit Kunming.
Favorite part? The vibrancy of public life. You can buy street food late at night, learn choreographed dances in the parks, or practice Taiji on public squares. People don’t just go home after work because there’s so much to do outside.
Hardest part? I got sick a lot and familiar medication wasn’t always available. The bargaining culture also made buying things stressful.
Most surprising part? The traffic in the cities
Future plans? My study abroad experience made me more confident about traveling alone. I plan on doing more of that after graduation.
Extra twist? I’m Chinese American and grew up speaking Cantonese with my parents and grandparents, but didn’t learn Mandarin until college. Many locals were skeptical when I told them I was American. When I backpacked with friends, many Chinese people assumed I was their translator and addressed me instead of them.