I am so grateful for my semester at Middlebury's School in Beijing!
The highlight of this experience was living with my Chinese roommate Liying. Communicating with Liying every day greatly improved my language skills and cultural understanding. Most importantly, we developed a deep friendship and are still in touch.
Middlebury's School in Beijing also provides a variety of rigorous classes that appeal to students with different interests. While the majority of my peers wanted to study politics, I was interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine and contemporary issues in China. I was able to take classes in both these areas and learned more than I anticipated. There were also students interested in art, cuisine, religion and international relations.
Middlebury's School in Beijing has an incredibly hard-working and talented group of teachers. In particular, I really appreciate that Zhang laoshi, the program director, was always available to discuss personal or academic concerns with any student.
I really enjoyed exploring Beijing over the course of my semester abroad. As the ancient and modern capitol, Beijing has many historical sites, as well as modern restaurants and art galleries. My favorite spots to explore on the weekends were "hutongs," or ancient residential communities with preserved architecture that have been maintained as homes or transformed into restaurants and shops. The city is also well known for its parks. Ultimately, Beijing's fusion of old and new makes the city a great place to learn about China. Despite its modernity and status as an international city, Beijingers did not insist on speaking English and were very friendly towards foreigners. Beijing is also a great city for outdoor lovers because it is surrounded by mountains. I particularly enjoyed hiking unrenovated sections of The Great Wall.
I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested in challenging themselves, learning deeply about China and improving proficiency in Mandarin!