Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad

About

The Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad feature 38 sites in 17 countries and are characterized by a focus on integration with the host culture, both linguistically and socially. In addition to taking academically rigorous courses, students are able to participate in internships, volunteer work or campus activities with local students, and at most of our sites students live with local families or peers. With the exception of our programs in Oxford, England and Delhi, India, all communication is in the target language under the Middlebury Language Pledge. By pledging to speak only the target language while abroad, students have the best chance of acquiring fluency and actively engaging in the local environment.

Reviews

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MollyAn
6/10

My experience in Hangzhou last semester helped me grow and learn a lot about the Chinese culture, language, and myself. The Middlebury Language Schools is a very academically rigorous program and students must be prepared for this from the beginning. We all had a language pledge which helped immensely with language improvement. However, on the other hand, it also hindered the social scene. I felt isolated at times during this program, confined to my room and stuck doing my homework. We had week excursions, but they did not seem as relaxed and casual because teachers and program directors also came. I wish there had been more activities with the other local Chinese roommates and the other American students in the program as well. I felt very stressed because of the academics because the classes were very small and the pressure to perform well increased since the teachers' focus was on their very small class of students. I also personally put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and learn the language, but that hindered my social enjoyment of the overall experience. I finally found frisbee, a few people in my program played frisbee. We went to local fields in Hangzhou to practice with other players weekly. This made my experience so much better and I am very grateful for having that outlet during my time in China. It gave me exercise, a place to meet people, and a outlet from my stress. The teachers were very kind and patient and sweet and very good at teaching us Chinese. The food and transportation in China is very affordable.

Additionally, as an adoptee from China, I look Chinese. This made it hard for me to interact with local people because they always assumed I spoke fluent Chinese, especially when with other foreigners/white people. They always assumed I was their local translator and got confused and frustrated when it became apparent that I could not speak fluent Chinese. It made my lack of language skills feel more obvious than the other American students and foreigners there because it was deliberately pointed out and drawn to attention. They also (perhaps subconsciously) went easier on white or foreign looking people, thinking it was a feat just when they could say one or two phrases in Chinese. However, when I spoke, they thought it was just surprising I couldn't speak better and I was just speaking bad Chinese. It was also hard to explain, and for Chinese people to understand, my status as an adoptee from China who had two white parents and no relation to China, other than just being born there. They asked where my parents were from, assuming they had immigrated to the United States from China earlier, or something like that situation. However, it always got a little awkward when I had to explain they were white and I don't speak Chinese at home and they were born and raised in the United States.

Overall, this experienced made me grow as a person. It made me realize that I should not take my ability to speak English and communicate freely in the United States for granted. I developed more confidence in myself because I now know I can live and travel in China where I can barely speak the language, then I must be able to do well for myself in the country I grew up in and can fluently speak its language in.

How can this program be improved?
More social activities and integration.
Yes, I recommend
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David
10/10

With the right attitude and a decent level of Spanish, you have a very good chance of having a very good time. Argentina is amazing and the Middlebury staff and directors in Buenos Aires work very hard to make sure your experience there is safe, informative, and authentic. The option to enroll directly in public universities and complete an internship means you can tailor a porteño experience to what you want to do, and the traveling with and without the program can't be beat.

Yes, I recommend
On a trip in Minas Gerais, Brazil
Olivia
10/10

I loved my semester in Belo Horizonte, affectionately referred to as "BH" by its residents. Though not located on the seaside, it has a unique accent, culture, and culinary tradition that are definitely worth getting to know as a study abroad student. The people in BH are especially welcoming, which I discovered in my day-to-day interactions with others and my fantastic host family. And as the third largest city in Brazil located in a beautiful state with lots of day/weekend-trip worthy sites, you will never run out of things to do.
This study abroad program is very independent, which can be positive or negative depending on what type of experience you're looking for. I studied in Spain for one semester with a much more highly structured program, and though they offered far more in terms of cultural adaptation support I felt as though I only superficially engaged with the culture. With Middlebury, there are very few students at each program location which forces you to make friends with Brazilians. I loved the freedom and managed to create a life for myself in BH, with routines and relationships with local people and places. If you're looking for a self-driven program that offers an authentic experience in Brazil, this is the program for you.
A note on language skills: I went into this program with a moderate/high language ability in Portuguese, and this enabled me to quickly adapt to the new cultural environment. Part of the reason I loved BH was that there is not a large English-speaking population, which allowed me to practice Portuguese all the time. That being said, I've heard from other students with lower language abilities upon arrival who had a very difficult first few months due to the low level of support from the program.

How can this program be improved?
Logistics in Brazil can be different, and plans are often much more fluid than in the U.S. That being said, I think the program needs to improve on basic organization and communication when planning group events and excursions.
Yes, I recommend
Kristen
9/10

First of all, anyone interested in studying abroad in Brazil should ABSOLUTELY look in to going to Belo Horizonte. This was the perfect place to study abroad, as the city is large (2.5 million people) with plenty to do, but it's also known for its warm and welcoming residents- something I can attest to. For me, it was absolutely the best of both worlds. I had friends visit me who were studying abroad in other cities in Brazil at the time, and they said the same thing- the genuine warmth of BH's residents just doesn't compare.

The program itself is great for students looking for a really independent experience. You're really able to make the semester what you want, with the downside (for some people) being that the staff, while supportive and present throughout the semester, do not hold your hand through it all. In my experience though, they were there when I wanted them to be and that was all I needed. Another strength of this program is the degree of immersion you get into local language and culture-- from what I understand, all Middlebury programs are like this, but I would say that this is especially true in Belo Horizonte as it is relatively easy to make local friends and to get involved in local life. This program also offers the opportunity to participate in an internship, something I highly recommend as this really deepened my involvement in the city and allowed me to be a part of an entirely different community. The program is imperfect as are all, but if I could do it all again, I would easily still choose Middlebury's program in Belo Horizonte as my study abroad program.

How can this program be improved?
A more comprehensive orientation (we received information on the basics and went on some nice cultural excursions, but it could have been a bit more detailed in certain areas that were only cleared up later), and a bit more organization in general.
Yes, I recommend
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Sam
9/10

I attended MIC Kunming in the fall of 2016 during my junior year of college. Overall, this program/experience was extremely transformative for me. It was my first time in China, and while culture shock was indeed a real thing for me, I quickly got over it and found myself calling Kunming home within no time. The program is very well-organized, and is truly designed to help you improve your Chinese. The language pledge, which seemed daunting at first, is designed to facilitate this, as well as having a Chinese roommate. In addition, the teachers are all extremely passionate and really want to see you do well. Kunming is a beautiful city, with SO much to do, from hiking, biking, and badminton, to museums, temples, and concerts. The cafeteria food at the university is decent, but the surrounding area has tons of great restaurants. It is worth noting, however, that the program is VERY academically rigorous. Having all four classes in a semester be entirely in Chinese is no doubt a big change from what most college students are used to for a normal course-load, and definitely takes some adjusting to at first. Be prepared to memorize lots of characters each week. With that said, simply being so immersed in Chinese 24/7 for a semester will have an incredible impact on your language skills, and you'll see improvement in no time

How can this program be improved?
At times, I felt a little too bogged down with work, and felt I couldn't go out and do things on the weekend. My exploration of Kunming and all it has to offer was limited by the work-load. Luckily, I was able to spend some time on my own in the city after the program ended, and got some good sight-seeing in.
Yes, I recommend

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