Alumni Spotlight: Paige Alexander

Paige Alexander went abroad through the CET Middlebury in China Beijing program from August 2018 to May 2019.

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Why did you choose this program?

The main reason I chose this program because I wanted to improve my Chinese. However, there were many other factors that went into this decision: I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone, I felt I had lost touch with the values that are important to me, and I wanted an artistic, culturally rich environment.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Professor Zhang, who is the director of the program in Beijing, came to my school and discussed what the program would be like, which helped me solidify my decision to apply to the Beijing school.
My study abroad advisor recommended the program based on my interest in Chinese, knowing the intensity of the pledge would suit my desire to become fluent.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be patient with yourself. Be open to all the things you will learn in this program. My entire life I heard sayings like "mistakes are valuable" or "do things that make you happy," but they weren't anything more than words until my experience abroad. Even now you might be reading this, thinking "Oh yes, I understand", but I'm betting you'll understand it better after you say words wrong multiple times, only realizing the correct pronunciation because you took the chance and got it wrong the first time.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I had a class for the majority of the day Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays, we would go as a program to eat lunch and then explore a famous site in Beijing. Weekends were free to do homework, explore on our own, and eat yummy Chinese food.

In terms of life on a daily basis, I would usually wake up around 7:30 to eat breakfast and look over the words for the tingxie or practice any oral presentations. Classes were 80 minutes, so I had two classes in the mornings, ate lunch, then one class in the afternoon that ended around 2 on Monday/Wednesday and 4:30 on Tuesday/Thursday. After that, I would go for a run, eat dinner, and prepare for the next day of class.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I don't think I really understood how scary the language pledge would feel until actually being in it, so I remember telling my dad before I left that I had been more nervous about going to college than I felt about going to China. Arriving in China, though, the pledge truly felt suffocating, especially at first. I overcame it just by doing it. I also had amazing support from my Professors, friends, and roommate.

What's one of your favorite stories?

One of my favorite stories is the first day of class. I barely made it through the 80 minutes of Chinese being spoken at me, not understanding a word, when I received the first homework assignment. It was an essay, front and back, FULL of words I had NEVER seen before. I went back to my room, put the paper on my desk, and stared at it for a solid 10 minutes. My roommate asked if I needed help and I nodded. She came over and sat next to me, helping me translate it word by word. Then we sat down on our floor's newly purchased rug and ate dumplings together.

I am still amazed at Luying's kindness and support after having known me for only 4 days.