Sophie Wright

This past year, Sophie went on a gap year, first traveling to Shanghai for CET’s Chinese Studies & Internship program, Fall 2012, and then heading north to Beijing for CET’s Intensive Chinese Language program, Spring 2013. Born in China, but a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sophie currently attends Grinnell College as a first year student.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

Sophie Wright

Sophie: I had a blast with CET in Shanghai and in Beijing and the reason why I have been recommending this program to my friends is because CET gives you great opportunities for immersion. The teachers are wonderful, approachable, and really give you personal attention in classes. Because you have a local Chinese university student as a roommate, you are able to experience first-hand what a Chinese university is like. Because you live in a dorm with the other CETers, you have the choice to socialize more with Americans or with Chinese students, roommates, local, or both. And because CET offers weekly outings to either cultural sites in the city or “Chinese table” at local restaurants and reimburses these outings (while the restaurant meals out are included in the program tuition), you are encouraged to really go out of your comfort zone even more by exploring the city by yourself or with other American and Chinese friends.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

Sophie Wright and friends

Sophie: My all time-favorite foods over in China was their eggplant (鱼香茄子), a lot of the potato dishes served in a pot with a mix of vegetables like onions, peppers, and pork, Xinjiang Muslim food like hand pulled rice noodles (拉面), and roasted lamb skewers (羊肉串(儿)). In all honestly, Chinese food has so many varieties and types depending on the region that it is worth going all over just to try the local specialties.

Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?

Sophie: Definitely. In Shanghai I had an internship at the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and because all my coworkers were Chinese, I had the real opportunity to get to know what it was like to be working in a Chinese-run company. In Beijing I was constantly out and about. Most afternoons I went to the local coffee shops and sometimes parks for jogs. I’d often pick up some fruit or bread on the way back from street stalls. It was through these multiple excursions that I was able to get a real sense of what it is like to live as a foreigner in Beijing.

Do you think your program changed you as a person?

Sophie and friends

Sophie: I think the program has changed me as a person. I fell in love with the Chinese language this past year and that was probably the largest barrier that I had to overcome, since I just grew up with English and started as a beginner in Shanghai. Food-wise, well, I now have a real standard when I search for Chinese food here in America and want to learn how to cook some dishes.

I found myself not to be as homesick as some of my classmates and so I gained a certain amount of independence traveling across the country during breaks-I ended up taking a 20-hour train ride solo to the southern part of China in March. Because of CET and the people I was able to meet through both programs in Shanghai and Beijing, I want to return for another study abroad semester or even year to gain a better acquisition of the language and better understanding of the people and their culture.