UMD has tons of study abroad programs to choose from, but after careful consideration I chose the University Studies Abroad Consortium’s (USAC) Chengdu program. I chose this program mostly because it was in Chengdu, as opposed to Beijing or Shanghai, and I wanted to do something a little different than the norm.
Chengdu is located in southwest China, and is the capital of Sichuan province. It is one of China’s 10 largest cities, and a major international hub for the country. I know it seems silly, but one of the reasons I was attracted to Sichuan was its culinary reputation. Sichuan is known for its bold, spicy flavors, and I LOVE spicy food. Later I would find there is so much more to this region of the country.
As far as classes go, the program was fantastic. I took Chinese Track IV (as I had already studied Chinese for quite some time), Culture and Society, Calligraphy, Tai Chi, and Sichuan Cuisine, but there was also a Government and Politics class available.
Chinese Track IV was a really great course; we had a great teacher who only spoke in Chinese, and we would often stop to talk about things outside of our coursework. I think this really helped me get acclimated to being in China in general, not to mention we learned about new words and concepts this way. Total immersion is key for language acquisition, in my opinion.
Culture and Society was very illuminating. Not only did our instructor elaborate on our coursework very well, he also gave us lots of invaluable insight as to what China is really like now, and what it was like when he was growing up. I would highly recommend taking this class.
Calligraphy, Tai Chi, and Sichuan Cuisine were all similar in that I was able to sample a tiny bit of what the arts mean to China. If you consider yourself a bit of an artist, like I do, I would take these classes. They’re fairly easy, meet 1 or 2 times a week, and a lot of fun. They are also all very similar in that the instructors give lots of one-on-one feedback as to how your doing. The calligraphy teacher takes your hand and brush in hers to guide you toward the right strokes. While you’re frozen in a certain part of a Tai Chi form, the instructor would raise your elbow to make sure you’re moving correctly. “More salt” or “less heat” were phrases often heard in the Sichuan Cuisine kitchen.
All in all, our Chinese teachers all wanted to see us succeed, and to learn as much as we could during our relatively short time in China. While the learning environment was certainly less stressful than I think it is here, don’t get lazy, and absorb everything you can!
The program also offers a few different field trips that I would highly recommend attending.
Wentao, our program coordinator, was infinitely helpful. If you choose this program, rest assured that you can go to her for anything.
For more information about USAC’s Chengdu program, check out their website: USAC Chengdu