Give us an intro!
David is a 23 year old business consultant from the United States. In each of the past two years, he has spent the entirety of his allowed 4-weeks vacation in Shijiazhuang studying Mandarin at KCE.
Why did you pick this program?
I picked KCE because it is in Northern China where the Mandarin is relatively standard, it does have as many foreigners as Beijing (the problem is not the foreigners themselves, but the amount of English that is available there because of the amount of foreigners). I also picked it because of the lower cost of living and tuition than a big city like Beijing, and the ability to experience a very non-touristy Chinese city.
You can always visit the big Chinese cities on vacation, but you don't always get a chance to experience the non-tourist destination cities. Later I would find out that the staff of KCE is exceptional, which makes it an even more attractive place to study.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
The most important thing I learned is the things that are important to me. Often, when you're stuck in the grind of class or work, you don't have time to really think outside the box and ask yourself what you want, what's important to you, and what you can do to improve your life.
When you take a break and leave the country for an extended period of time and live there (rather than just vacation), you take a step back, observe other people in a different country, and re-evaluate your life a little bit. It's easy to get tunnel vision at home and studying abroad here can serve as both a learning experience and a reflective experience.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I tell them to absolutely do it, especially if they are young people who feel like they won't have this opportunity later on in life. Any hesitation normally has to do with the opportunity cost of going (not working, not vacationing elsewhere, or not spending vacation with friends); however, all of those things will be there when they come back.
There's also sometimes a discomfort with going to a new country without being fluent in the language. Don't worry! Don't take things too seriously and just know that everything will be alright and you'll grow and have so much fun in the process. Chinese people are very understanding of foreigners and if you just make an effort to speak the language you will be warmly welcomed.
What made this experience unique and special?
The initial 4-week trip was so meaningful that I went back for another 4 weeks! Not only did I learn more Mandarin than I thought I would, I've retained more than I ever thought I would too. But the language benefit pales in comparison to the personal growth that comes from living in a new country where you aren't fluent in the language, and the relationships you'll build with teachers, students, and your host family (if you choose to have one).
Initially I thought I would just go for 4 weeks and then continue on with my life in the US, but now I'm seriously looking into working in China! Going overseas to learn is truly an excellent investment in learning the language, learning about the world, and learning about yourself, and you couldn't pick a better place to do it than KCE.