Before I start I will say a little about myself my name is Maddi Chinn and when I went into this program I was a sophomore at Husson University in Maine with a major in English Education. At the time I was 19 and had very little knowledge of Chinese. My main reason for wanting to go to China was not only to learn to language, but also to learn more about myself. My grandfather on my dads side is from China and I was hoping to find or learn more about where part of me comes from. Anyway, last spring I was able to study abroad in Nanjing, China and it was the best experience I've ever had. During this program I was pushed to every limit I possibly had, but I learned so much from it. Although my experience was a little different from my peers. One of the requirements for the program is at least 2 semesters of college level Chinese, but Ciee accepted me with only one semester. In the program there are tree types of classes A, B, and C, but after taking the placement test it showed I was not anywhere near ready to be in classes A, B, or C. So, in my case I was able to take an actual Nanjing University International course. I believe being able to take this class with other students that were just beginning Chinese made my experience more well rounded then my peers. In my NU class there were students from South Korea, Australia, Germany, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Poland, Peru, and Spain. I got to learn about so many cultures while learning Chinese. Another thing about this NU class was since everyone in it was a beginner it was easier to ask to for help or find an understanding of a word or phrase. To elaborate my peers, that I now consider good friends, had at least 1 semester of Chinese more than me, so it was harder for them to try and understand why I would have trouble on things that came to them naturally. Through this class I made twice as many friends and in multiple countries and I actually think I learned more Chinese at a faster pace in this class. I think that if all the Ciee students could participate in the international classes, like I did, they could get more culturally enlightening experience.
Ciee was also very accommodating with my lack of Chinese. Not only did they have me take the NU class they also got a teacher to give me a private class for the second period. That second class was very hard, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. My friends and I had the chance to actually volunteer teaching English to 3rd grade class of Chinese students. That experience solidified my decision to teach English as a second language in Asia. This is a little off topic, but it was a fun little story. When we were teaching we taught in groups of three in my group there was also my friends Hailey and Pablo. So of course the kids would call me Maddi laoshi, Hailey Huali laoshi, and for some reason they had a hard time saying Pablo so he became BaBa (father in Chinese) laoshi and we all thought it was the cutest and funniest thing.
The city of Nanjing itself is rather large, but that means there's always something to do and the food is amazing! There were two streets one we called food street which is closer to the main entrance to the university and one called Dark Ally. On dark ally they have a bibimbop (Korean rice dish) restaurant or in Chinese called Ban Fan. That place was one of my favorites, along with a place that one of my friends called Mom's. On food street they have a biangbiangmian place, so if you study in Nanjing you HAVE to try these places and of course get jianbing for breakfast.
Another fun thing that happened in Nanjing was when we went on our group trip to southern China. I got to see a completely different side to China. Also, as long as you provide information on where your traveling (and the hotels are legit and safe) the teachers allow you to go on weekend trips. With the semi- flexible schedules my friends and I went to Beijing, Xian, Suzhou, and Shanghai. These trips also include spring break! a group of my friends decided to go to Tibet for a week and I decided to go to South Korea and Japan. Being in China gives you a good starting point for these kind of short trips on the side.
A final thing that I learned the very hard way is to always recheck your visa! Once I was in China I had my visa changed to a multi entry visa, but because of my lack of Chinese and our interpreter was having trouble interpreting what the visa officers were saying I received a brand new type of Visa where once you return to China from abroad you have to leave 30 days after returning and then come back again for 30 days. Since this was not properly explained I overstayed by 24 days. So when I went to head back to America after the semester I was stopped by immigration and had to pay about $2,000usd to leave the country. Moral of the story always triple check your visa!
I could go on forever with this, but this program changed my life in many ways, it enhanced my knowledge of China, it allowed me to visit places I've never thought I would ever go, gave me some of the greatest friends I have ever had, and made me realize that I want to live the rest my life in Asia. So once I graduate from college with my degree in English education I plan to teach English in Asia and live there as much as possible.