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5 Things that Set an Intensive Language Program apart

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What makes a Language Intensive different than a standard language program at CIEE? It’s a more rigorous, round-the-clock experience, designed for students looking to gain language fluency in the most authentic way possible. For motivated learners who are serious about language, it’s a rewarding experience with proven results.

What makes the two types of language programs the same? New friendships, unforgettable excursions, intercultural activities. Daily discoveries and eye-opening experiences.

What’s it like to be immersed in a Language Intensive? Think of it like being an actor getting into character for a role in a whole new setting. Full cultural immersion combined with speaking the language 24/7 is a challenge that many students seize!

Here are 5 things that make our Language Intensive more, well, intense(!):

Smaller Size

You’ll spend time with a smaller group of like-minded students. It’s a great bonding experience and a better way to learn. You’re all in it together!

Higher Expectations

Instructors will challenge students more by ramping up the difficulty of tasks and activities. During daily life you’ll be flexing your linguistic skills with native speakers and fellow classmates who are also farther along the path of proficiency.

More Selective

It’s designed for intermediate to advanced language learners. You need 2+ years of high school Spanish under your belt to apply.

Bigger Commitment

You’re expected to stay in the language the majority of the time, with occasional breaks (or “recess”). You’ll need to sign a Language Pledge beforehand to promise to stay in the target language.

More Incentives

Like the Global Citizen Award at the end of the program, given by Program Leaders to those best at staying in the target language 24/7. Plus a greater likelihood of skipping a level of language upon return to your high school or placing out of a language requirement in college.

The Spanish intensive was hard at times. My host family only spoke Spanish, they only knew very few words in English, so it forced me to speak Spanish at all times and I had to practice and practice… But it was worth it… It was really amazing. - Colin, 2017 Global Navigator in Alicante, Spain

Interested in learning more? Check out our new Spanish Intensive program in Palma de Mallorca, Spain!

Q+A with CIEE: Buenos Aires

13202_Study Abroad_Buenos Aires_Student Steph RossThis summer, we are excited to announce a new program in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Multimedia StorytellingOur Portland, Maine staff asked the CIEE: Buenos Aires team a little about the city, the culture (and food!), and their favorite places to check out the art scene.

Can you tell us a little about your city?

Buenos Aires is a huge and diverse city that may sometimes overwhelm students with its chaotic traffic and carefree style. But it always ends up sneaking into students’ hearts because of the magic moments it bares and the warm people it is home to.

Be it making a bike tour along the river, watching a soccer match with mad Argentinians, enjoying a dramatic tango show, or simply drinking a coffee with patisseries at a traditional café, Buenos Aires always has something to offer to the students living here. It is a vibrant city and whether students like being noisy at a party or quiet in nature, in a howling crowd or at an intimate corner with friends, there is always a spot for everyone visiting Buenos Aires to be just them selves.

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There are many ways in which the city surprises students. Being served by a collar and tie waitress at a centennial café that was the site for artists and the aristocracy feels like living at the turn of the XIX’s century in the most splendorous time of Argentina. Just by strolling around the city’s capital, one can easily see why it was called the 'Paris of South America.' The stunning buildings and wide avenues that make the city center are some of the things students admire the most. The Teatro Colón opera house, the national Congress, the many bronze monuments and bucolic parks make it a city that most relate to the European capitals.

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And still Buenos Aires is a busy and humbling city at a Latin American street level. It is full of street markets, design shops and local restaurants, artisan stalls and outdoor malls. Students love eating empanadas of varied types, choripanes (sausage sandwich) or minutas (dinners done in ten minutes) on the go while walking through the streets on a sunny winter day. The more foodie students try at least once a fancy world-known restaurant: steak, pasta or fusion meals are the principal options. Everything said, pizza here is an institution of its own: every year the mozzarella marathon is celebrated to see what the best classic pizza in town is. Students enjoy the variety and offer, one of the best pizzerias being open 24/7.

There are so many culture events going on in the city, that it is impossible to know them all at once. There are young people playing traditional folk music and aged artists rocking on the radio. Students quickly notice why they say Buenos Aires is the capital of libraries: you’ll find a place where to buy books on every street, be it a rack of used gems or a former three-story stunning ancient theater turned into a bookstore.

Even if at first sight some may think there are not so many natural spots in Buenos Aires, the river and the parks along it are always a way of getting fresh air. The natural reserve park hosts birds and local fauna, fifteen minutes away from the skyscrapers of Puerto Madero. And just an hour from downtown, the delta is a unique place to see people living surrounded by green and water.

What’s your favorite art venue in Buenos Aires? Can you share a special memory with us about that place?

One of my student’s preferred museums, and that happens to be my favorite, is the Evita Museum. Located at a traditional and glamorous villa, that used to host orphans and single mothers when the Evita Perón Foundation worked, the museum is an interactive place to learn from Evita’s life and the policies done under her husband’s administration. One can see at the same place her high fashion gowns while learning on how she promoted the female vote in Argentina. The museum has archive film fragments that create the ambience of the 50s but that still feels contemporary because every room has a particular theme of electronic tango. At the end of the one-hour tour, the best option is to go to the museum’s restaurant in the patio.

I like visiting this museum with my students after discussing Argentina’s modern history. It is a great place for them to review the thoughts they had on Peronism before they arrived to Buenos Aires and contrast them to the views and opinions from Argentineans. Recent history and Peronism is always a controversial subject and if the Evita Museum helps them understand our culture’s stand and questions their previous believes, it is worth the excursion.

3 Interested in learning more? Check out our Summer Abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Multimedia Storytelling.

Q+A with CIEE: St. Petersburg

Gettyimages-621116352This summer, we are excited to announce a new program in St. Petersburg, Russia – Exploring St. Petersburg through the Arts: Classical to Cutting Edge. Our Portland, Maine staff asked the CIEE: St. Petersburg team a little about the local arts scene, the history behind it, and soccer culture. 

Meeting local artists will be a unique opportunity for students to take the pulse of Russia’s contemporary art scene. Can you tell us what participants this summer can expect?

Throughout the summer program, we will be acquainting students with different aspects of Russian contemporary art, including full immersion into the local art scene meeting local artists, musicians, film directors, and theatre crews. To unveil just a few names:

MUSIC:

Ilya Demutsky is a Russian multi-award winning composer, performer, and conductor. His works include compositions for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble, piano, voice, as well as electronic and film music. 

Demutsky’s music for the full-length ballet, A Hero of Our Time, at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow has won him the most coveted Russian theatre award, the Golden Mask, for the Best Composer in Musical Theatre, and the production was named the Best Ballet Production for 2015/2016.

Demutsky is excited to meet with our students and talk to them about today’s Russian ballet and theatre.

Website: http://demutsky.com

VISUAL ARTS:

Aron Zinshtein is a contemporary Russian artist, a Member of the Academy of Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg since 1994. Zinstein has a record of more than 32 personal and 25 group exhibitions in Russia, Europe, and US. His works are owned by the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg, Fyodor Dostoevsky Museum in St. Petersburg, Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Kiev Museum of Russian Art, Bristol Museum (UK) and private collectors in Russia, Germany, US, France, UK, Italy, Japan, and Israel. 

Zinstein would love to have our students at his art studio, show them how he works and talk about the visual art scene in Russia and Saint Petersburg of the 21st century.

Website: www.aronzinshtein.ru

ARTS & FILM:

Viktor Tikhomirov is a Russian award-winning artist, writer, screenwriter and film director. Tikhomirov is a part of St. Petersburg prominent art group Mitki (read more: https://www.rbth.com/arts/2017/06/28/petersburg-artists-mitki_790112). Tikhomirov cinematic works are mostly in the genre of documentary and drama. Tikhomirov is known for his short motion pictures dedicated to the lives of Russian writers and art visionaries of the 20th and 21st century.  

Tikhomirov is glad to invite our students to attend his work studio and talk to them about filmmaking and Mitki art movement.

STREET ART:

Open air public Street art museum of St. Petersburg features young developing street art that is a clear-cut reflection of today’s Russian urban life. The museum is willing to offer our students opportunities to meet with its most prominent contributors in an informal format, where artists such as Tima Radya, Kirill Kto, and Nikita Nomerz, who will show their works and reflect on their significance.

More on the museum and the artists: streetartmuseum.ru/en/expo  

THEATRE:

Staff writers and columnists of the porusski online magazine featuring today’s Russian art, fashion, and lifestyle (available only in Russian) are happy to become our guides to the backstage of St. Petersburg’s contemporary theatre. Together with porusski, we will dive into the vibrant theatre life and visit Bolshoi Puppet Theatre, Urban Theatre, Social Arts Theatre, “Rain Theatre”, where we will meet with directors, playwrights, and acting crews, talk about contemporary urban theatre movement and attend rehearsals.

Russia will also be in the World Cup this summer! Can you tell us a little bit about what soccer means for the residents of St. Petersburg, and what participants should expect? 

The history of soccer in the Soviet Union start in 1930s with the voluntary sport clubs representing various public organizations. For example, CSKA (Central Sport Club of Army) Soccer Club was a sport club for the Soviet Army, and therefore the most athletes and fans of that team were from the military. Same applies to Dinamo (Soviet Police), Lokomotiv (Railways and Metro), Torpedo (Metal and car industry), Spartak (trade unions) and other soccer clubs in Moscow. Fans in the Soviet Union capital could easily identify with a sport club, according to their occupation or social class.

At the same time, in Leningrad (former name of St. Petersburg) we had only one team and this is why people would identify with this team regardless of their socio-economic class or heritage. This created a special atmosphere around the Zenit Soccer Club, which has been preserved until today. Even when this club was relegated to the Tier Two of Russian soccer, it was still strongly supported by its fans. Throughout the years, the philosophy of the fan movement of the Zenit was “we have only local athletes on our team, and we are proud of it”. Being proud of the team that was different from the others has always been a distinctive feature of the St. Petersburg soccer fan movement.

Needless to say, soccer is a hugely popular sport in Russia and in St. Petersburg, and hosting Confederation Cup in 2017 and World Cup in 2018 is definitely a big deal for the city residents. Together with our students, we will organize soccer watching parties and meetings with local soccer enthusiasts, supporters, bloggers, and representatives of the local Soccer Club. In addition, we will visit the vicinity of the newly-built Zenit Arena stadium and the parks and facilities surrounding it on the off-game days.

Interested in learning more? Check out our Summer Abroad program in St. Petersburg: Exploring St. Petersburg through the Arts: Classical to Cutting Edge.

Equal Footing is the Ultimate Goal

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Women’s football (soccer) has had a foothold in Tanzania since the late 1990s. The country even has a national women’s team, called the Twiga Stars, and a national under-20 team, the Tanzanites. Despite efforts over the past two decades to get more of the female population on the field, progress has been slow.

What’s holding some players back? Fathers who tell daughters it’s a man’s sport. Religious beliefs that forbid women to wear shorts or to play in front of male spectators. Husbands who don’t allow wives to continue playing football once they’re married. Cultural expectations and economic realities often discourage girls from playing the game and developing the skills to compete. And when it comes to organized sports, there’s strength in numbers!

A local NGO called the Karibu Tanzania Organization (KTO) is working to change all that. Together with Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), they’re devising strategic plans and a solid infrastructure to support the sport, all while focusing on the bigger picture. Their goal? To promote gender equality and socio-economic empowerment through the development of girls’ and women’s football. No small feat!

This is the first program of its kind, not only in Tanzania, but in all of East and Central Africa. And CIEE is proud to play a role by partnering with the KTO.

Kicking equality up a notch through the KTO

Empowering Girls Through Sports, a new program in CIEE’s High School Summer Abroad lineup, invites American teens to play a key hands-on role in this initiative. Working side by side with girls in the highlands of Tanzania, our students play team-building games and engage in activities to build skills, self-confidence and optimism about the future.

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The power of play

The KTO is a non-profit group committed to furthering human rights, democratic practices and sustainable developments through adult education. So what does all that have to do with women’s football? It turns out, a lot!

Football is more than just a game here; it’s also a vehicle to boost opportunities, equality and respect for women. It’s as much about character development as physical development and a powerful tool to teach important life skills. It’s a healthy pastime, it’s a source of pride and joy.

The potential is huge. In a country of nearly 60 million people, with 45 percent of them under age 15, there’s a lot of girl power waiting to be tapped. Just think of all the talented girls and women around the country who can be trained as football players, coaches and referees, administrators and sports medicine specialists. Think of the possibilities!

Working closely with KTO leaders, students get to witness the NGO’s mission in action. We’re thankful for this partnership and for the privilege of playing alongside local athletes. Here in Iringa, it’s inspirational to see how a game we take for granted can make such a lasting social impact.

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Interested in learning more? Check out our Summer Abroad program in Iringa: Empowering Girls through Sports.

Spanish Can Take You Places

From the Teotihaucan pyramids in Mexico to Machu Picchu in Peru. From a cacao plantation in Caribbean to the rugged Chilean coast. This summer, Spanish can take you all these places and more.

El español es más que solo España! Did you know? In addition to CIEE’s five amazing destinations in Spain, we offer language programs in four other Spanish-speaking countries as well. So while you’re perfecting your conversational skills you can immerse yourself in the culture of Chile (Valparaiso), the Dominican Republic (Santiago), Mexico (Guanajuato), or Peru (Cusco). Take your pick!

Here’s a fun fact: More people in the world speak Spanish than English.

It’s the second-most widely spoken language in the world (after Mandarin Chinese), and the official language of 21 countries. If you’ve already traveled to one of these countries, you’ll be fascinated by the subtle differences in dialect from one Spanish-speaking country to the next. 

Where can Spanish Take You?

...on cultural excursions!

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Climbing the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate at the top of Machu Picchu (Peru)
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Trekking to the pyramids in Teotihaucan (Mexico)
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Sampling fresh cacao on an organic farm (Dominican Republic)

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Getting real, touring city street art (Chile)

...on culinary adventures!

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Churros! (Dominican Republic)
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Preparing lomo saltado (stir-fried beef with onions, vinegar, ginger, chili pepper, tomatoes and fried potatoes). (Peru)
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Baking empanadas and pastel de choclo (corn pie) followed by our favorite postres: flan, ice cream, meringue, and two kinds of huesillo con mote (a typical peach dessert). (Chile)
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Guac cook-offs! (Mexico)

There are so many options outside of Spain to practice your Spanish! Learn more at ciee.org/highschoolsummer. Applications are still open for Summer 2018!

 

The Definitive Checklist to your High School Summer Abroad Application

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The fall is a busy time of the year, especially at CIEE Global Navigator High School Summer Abroad! We are working through everyone's applications and making sure they are all complete.

Are you planning on studying abroad next summer? Our priority application deadline is December 1, and this date is important! Seventy-five percent of our scholarships are awarded then, plus submitting your application before the priority deadline means you are automatically entered for a chance to win a free flight!  

To serve as a guide for the process, check out our Application Checklist to make sure you have everything you need to submit before the deadline!

-Your Global Navigator High School Summer Abroad Team

One month after Korea

Hello everyone!

It's been a month since I started school now and I'm back for my last blog post! Although school has been hard so far and I know it will continue to be, I am grateful that I am doing it here in America instead of Korea. As much as I loved and miss Korea, I would not do well in their school system. In Korea, students have school from 9 am to 5 pm, and then most students go to academy from 5 pm to 10 pm, THEN they go home and do their homework. Whenever I'm feeling stressed or mad at the American school system I remember what all my Korean friends are dealing with and that helps me put my problems in perspective.

Now that it's been so long since I got back, I don't actively miss Korea and my friends but whenever I think of my trip, my nostalgia has turned into a sharp sadness. I loved Korea so much and all my friends that thinking about them makes me very sad. And to think that I won't see them or go back for years, if ever makes it even worse. 3 weeks was not enough time; it was enough for us to fall in love with the location and form strong bonds with our friends but not long enough to grow tired of either, making leaving painful and memories bittersweet.

Since my trip, I just want to travel more. I definitely want to go back to Korea but I also want to travel all over the world. Top on my list right now is Thailand but I want to see as much of the world as I can before it changes, then I want to revisit everything all over again. I have also picked up little quirks from my trip to Korea. The 2 most noticeable are that I still give and receive everything with 2 hands and that I still bow hello, goodbye, and thank you (although it's a very small bow; in Korea it would be considered rude to bow to someone the way I do). Most people don't really notice when I do these things but my family teases mercilessly whenever they notice me doing it. My beauty/fashion taste has also changed to align more closely with what was popular while I was in Korea, which was weird for me at first but now America is starting to adopt some of those same trends. Nobody really knows this but America actually follows behind Korea when it comes to beauty/fashion by about 6 months.

Overall, my experience traveling abroad was an amazing one that I would love to repeat and would HIGHLY recommend to anyone and everyone. After my trip, I feel more mature and self reliant and more prepared to face challenges on my own. Being abroad in a foreign country is an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world we live in. I have become a more well rounded and compassionate person, and more confident in my own abilities and sense of self. I am very grateful to CIEE for giving the opportunity to travel abroad and also got letting me blog with them, it has made my travel abroad experience richer and more meaningful. Also thank you all for reading my blog posts, I hope I have inspired you to travel abroad!

-Isabelle B.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

 

One Month After Nanjing

I can’t believe it’s already been a month. Honestly, did I even go to China?

It feels like a dream. When I got back to the US, school started a week later, and it feels like summer never even happened. It’s really like it was just a wonderful dream, one that I can’t go back to.

But then, I live life, and the randomest things remind me of my time in China. Like, I almost forgot how to use public transportation because I was so used to China’s (more efficient and just better overall) transportation. Or, when I was walking to school and it was a warm day and it reminded me of my route to school when I was in Nanjing. Or when I was at a restaurant and the atmosphere was just… quieter than all the other restaurants I went to in Nanjing. Or… when I went to the mall and all the stores were overpriced. Seriously, why is everything so expensive here now?? Was it always like this?? I miss China prices...

Then there are those moments in Mandarin class. On the first day of school I identified a new word lightning fast and all my friends were like “Whoaaa when did Sarah get so good at Mandarin?? I should go to China for a month” and I had my own 15 seconds of fame. Or when I’m in class and the way my teacher says things in class remind me of a certain lesson in one of the classes in Nanjing. Now in class I’m a little more confident. Of course, in the one month between Nanjing and school I got a little rusty and I wish there were more opportunities for me to practice but nonetheless, as I go to Mandarin class more and more I’m starting to remember more and more. I can understand what my teacher and classmates are saying in class better now, and I definitely know a ton of new words that I try to incorporate in my assignments more. I’m more fluent, but since we just got back into the school rhythm I’m still remembering all that I learned and transporting it into the classroom.

The main thing that has changed about how I view the US now is, well, I can clearly see how lacking we are in California in terms of public transportation. Compared to China, our public transport is ancient, out of date, inefficient, and needs a lot more improvement. From my time in China, I’ve been inspired to find better ways for transportation. I don’t know how I can make a difference, but now it’s something I’m more aware of and am open to look into as an adult/as a career.

Also, have you ever heard the saying that learning about a new language teaches you more about the language you know best? I can testify that that is absolutely true. In China, the more I learned about Mandarin, the more I learned about English. It’s kind of funny and counter-intuitive, but it’s actually really accurate.

Overall, the main thing I learned was this: It’s what you make of it.

There were some kids on the program that often time liked to complain about the really hot heat, or when a program leader made a mistake. I can shamefully say that was me at times. But after the first week there, I realized that time was going fast, and if I wasn’t going to make the most out of every moment, the program would end without me getting anything from it, without me learning and making connections with others. I would waste this golden, radiant and shining opportunity. I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals for the program, I needed to change my attitude. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit? Well, then I would take it easy and learn how to compensate with it so I wouldn’t miss being really present in the moment and socializing with my program friends and host family. I wouldn’t miss enjoying the super yummy food, and breathtaking sights. My mindset was that I was already blessed enough to go on this program, and there were so many people cheering for me at home and supporting me, so all that was left was to enjoy and learn. Once I changed my thinking, the program was way less complain-y for me and much more enjoyable and full of learning experiences, even when things weren’t going exactly how I planned or expected.

Really, it’s what you make of it. It feels like a dream that I was able to go, and my time there has really made a difference in my life now. While this is goodbye for the blog, it’s not goodbye for the things I learned along the way.

Thanks for reading!

-Sarah H.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

After Nanjing: 2 weeks later

Two weeks after I have returned (I stayed longer in Asia with my actual family, so sorry for the blog delay all!) these are my reflections. I’ll be taking you through some of my thoughts through three of my favorite pictures from the trip.

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This is us (some of us at least) at the San Francisco International Airport. It’s still cold. We’re experiencing our last few hours of decent weather before we get into a humid oven, and we don’t even know it. We’re sad to leave our families, or maybe happy. Either way, any thoughts of home don’t compare to how excited we for the adventure that awaits. We’re a bit anxious to get through security but at least we have each other! Each other… oh yeah it’s kinda awkward because we all just met around five minutes ago, huh? Yeah. What was that kid’s name again…? Marie? Oh! Almarie, right…!! She seems nice!! Are we gonna become good friends? Are we all going to know each other pretty well by the end of this trip? I guess we’ll find out...

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It is now around the middle of the trip, and I look up at this digital board.. Thing. Wow. Much better than in the states. When is my bus (bus 20!) coming? Oh, it says in the new Mandarin vocan I learned just last week that there are two stops until it arrives! Great. Time to get my wallet out and get my transportation card! Man… why is it so humid. As if the walk from home wasn’t already far.. Ah… Well, at least the red bean soup my host mom gave me for breakfast this morning was pretty good! It’s so peaceful here at the stop, even though there are a lot of people here… I guess people don’t talk to strangers (Sarah I think that’s normal, it doesn’t happen in the States either). Okay but at least everyone here is feelin’ the heat and I’m not the only one who’s sweating… Man I was not expecting it to be this hot here!

Sarahh4

“Guys let’s take our last selfie!” I shout, as everyone crowds around my phone opened to the Snapchat app. We’re all having mixed feelings right now. It’s so hot and we’re all gross and sweaty but we don’t want to leave this plaza we’re at even though it’s super humid and ew because it’s our last day!! We don’t want to say goodbye to each other, not after this whole month of growing closer and closer to each other. We realize we may never see each other again… We’re not ready to leave!!

I’m sorry for looking down on the program. I was extremely hesitant to go at first because my first choice was one of the entrepreneurship programs. But, I didn’t want to waste this chance so I took it and took a leap out of my comfort zone. And, when I was catching up with my mom back when the program was over and I was reunited with my family, I realized that I enjoyed the trip so much more than I had expected. I actually had fun learning a completely different language in a completely new place!! What!?? I made friends!! What?? I have a family in China now that I treasure so much!! What?? I feel like a master of public transportation now!! What?? (Especially on that one -- I’m terrible at understanding public transport!!).

Because of this program, my entire view on culture has changed. I realize, admittedly, that I had some pretty negative stereotypes about the Chinese culture before the program, such as China being gross and dirty and a total dump. Well. Maybe not a total dump, but you get the point. Once I got there and really got to experience living in China, I saw how I was totally wrong because it’s so clean and there are even people who sort through trash to recycle goods and etc etc etc! Similarly, one by one, my stereotypes began to be countered and now my view has totally shifted. This would not have happened without being in this program. It also wouldn’t have happened the same way it did if I just independently went to China. Through the program I was able to have a more insightful experience because I stayed with a host family (not a hotel) and Into the Community gave me a chance to converse with locals.

In conclusion, if I could sum up the trip in one word (which is almost not possible do you realize how hard this is??????) it would be: swell. Shoutout to the ones who know me and get the reference. But really though, this trip was super swell in many aspects, not just “i had fun.”. I learned a lot, and grew a lot. Hey, the world is your classroom. Make the most out of it!

-Sarah H. 

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

Week 4: Nanjing

On the second to last day of the program, we took a post STAMP test to measure our progress. As I was taking it I literally thought this to myself: Wow, I actually know stuff!

Now, don't get me wrong. I had taken Mandarin for two years before this, but my confidence in my skill was nonexistent. Without realizing it, one month passed and  I not only learned and improved my mandarin speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, but also greatly improved my confidence. In my opinion, confidence is one of the most important factors toward learning a language because 1) often when I’m trying to decide how to say or write something on the spot I have to go with my gut and 2) if you don’t speak confidently people are less likely to take you seriously, especially in China it seems.

Within those four categories I think my speaking improved the most, because my teacher (杨老师)made us talk a ton in class, and everyday our homework would be to interview our host family on some topic (therefore talking), summarize it in our own words (Mandarin, of course) and then orally present in class.

I didn’t expect myself to improve as much as I did. I knew I would definitely get better, but I didn’t expect my speaking skills to improve so much. My writing and reading skills progressed as I expected though. Going forward I’m a bit worried that I won’t have opportunities to practice speaking, and end up forgetting everything. But I do have a pretty great Mandarin teacher at school, so I’m not too worried!

Oh! Also, like I said a few posts ago, language is not a barrier. For example, when I first met my host family, even the limited Mandarin I knew brought us together. Along with my progress throughout the program, I was able to grow even closer to them because of the skills I learned! I talked to them using new vocab and sentence structures (and thoroughly impressed them, might I add) but also made some pretty embarrassing mistakes (which they laughed at me for but kindly corrected me which brought us even closer!!).

The main difference between learning mando in the states and in China is the experience. In China, I was literally learning through every single experience there, whether at my host fam’s house or on the bus ride to school. In the states, I didn’t get the context of what I was learning. It was like, okay, more mando, more words to speak a language that isn’t spoken in commonplace in California. In China, there’s more practicality to what you’re learning (also props to the CIEE curriculum and values which emphasize on usefulness)!!

My favorite experience would be… well, there’s too many, but one I vividly remember is shopping at a huge two floor grocery store with my host sister. I bought so many yummy asian snacks for my family! But, the problem was that my host sister and I had to walk with alllllll of them all the way back to our apartment. In ninety degree humid weather. Phewf.  That was a workout.

Lastly, one of the most vital pieces of the program was the Into the Community section, which I briefly talked about a few blog posts ago. Honestly, I was scared to ask a random citizen some questions with my poor Mandarin skills, but because I was doing it with the rest of my class I was less nervous and became more confident. Actually, out of my classmates I was the one pushing them to ask people questions, which also made me more confident because I would sometimes set the example and it would push me to do my best and not waste the opportunity! In the end, I not only gained confidence (a theme in this post, it seems) but also I got to observe and experience first hand how the Chinese people in Nanjing act when in the public area. It was different than in America because most people (at least where I live) would not even give me a second glance and take time out of their busy day to talk to a kid who barely knows the language. For the Nanjing locals, they stopped to talk to us, or at least most of them did. I won’t lie and say it went smoothly every time. I said “uhhhhhh” a LOT and nervously laughed a TON but most of them were pretty forgiving and my friends were there to back me up. Oh, also our program leader was supervising from a distance in case anything went wrong. Though nerve wracking, the experience was a golden one.

-Sarah H.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!