Back to SummaryKelsey Broderick - Student Advisor Profile
I started taking Chinese language classes in high school, but I never though I would continue taking them in college. However, the first time I went to China I experienced a complete change of heart. After completing a summer internship in Shanghai my junior year of high school I immediately fell in love with the Chinese culture, environment, and people. As soon as I started Stanford I enrolled in language classes and already started planning my abroad experience in Beijing.
I was lucky enough to get a research assistant job with an Anthropology professor who specializes in Chinese culture, and it was through her that I came to spend three months in China before the fall BOSP program started at Beijing University. That summer I travelled around through different villages in China interviewing older women who were still or had previously had their feet bound. I experienced the less glamorous side of Chinese life, including outdoor holes in the ground for toilets, buckets for showers, and no air-conditioning in 105 degree heat. However, while I was ready to return to a major university in a major city at the end of the summer, I was glad to have had the experience of living life as about 60% of the people in China live everyday.
Once I arrived on campus at Beijing University I was astonished to find how similar the conditions were to the conditions I was used to at Stanford. The dorms were big and bright with clean bathrooms and easy internet access. In addition, the Stanford center even had a computer cluster and a TV for us to watch movies on. The whole adjusting experience was even easier due to the easy to use meal cards and dining halls and preliminary campus tours and introductions. Even though by this point my language skills had improved drastically, I found almost no need to use Chinese to get around on campus.
Life continued to be comfortable and easy with great teachers, readily available cabs, and a close group of 15 Stanford students who shared similar interests and a desire to explore. My friends and I quickly immersed ourselves in Chinese life going out to eat off campus, strolling around parks and neighborhoods, and shopping (a LOT of shopping) with our language partners. While we were still taking Stanford level classes, we definitely had more than enough time to experience the culture and language that we had come to study.
One of the highlights of my fall quarter abroad was the Bing trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou. We took a surprisingly comfortable overnight train to Suzhou and then a bus to Hangzhou where we spent two wonderful days wandering around gardens and lakes and eating some of the best food in China. We always looked forward to our meals because the program director, Shen Laoshi, is a master at ordering the best things off the menu. She is also known for ordering so much food that you couldn’t possibly finish it all in one sitting. Even people that weren't big fans of Chinese food in America loved the food she picked out for us to eat.
I actually enjoyed my experience in Beijing so much that I decided to return to China for the BOSP spring quarter abroad. With the exception of a new group of people, life pretty much picked up exactly where I left it and I was able to experience even more than I had the first time around. Since I’ve been back I’ve been very happy with my decision to go abroad twice, because I was definitely less nervous about speaking Chinese and getting lost in the city than I was the first time. I was really able to embrace the fact that just about everyone you will ever meet in China would love to have a conversation with you, no matter how basic your Chinese skills are.
The highlight of my spring quarter was actually a class that I took with a sociology professor called Population and Society. What first appeared to be a simple demography class turned into weekly visits to different clubs and organizations in Beijing. The first week we went to a neighborhood office and learned all about how neighborhood rules and the one child policy are enforced. The second week we went to a woman’s center and took an art class and a dance class. And for the third week we got to a take a traditional cooking class.
I have no doubt that I will be going back to China many times in the future. One of the best things about China is that it really is so different from America. All of my experiences in China have been incredibly eye-opening and interesting, and I learned something new every single time I stepped out of the door. In addition, studying abroad in Beijing has really helped me to better understand the country you so often hear about in the news and in your econ and international relations classes. And finally I have no doubt that the experiences, skills, and friends that I gained in China will continue to impact my life even though my time at Beijing University has come to an end.