Back to SummaryTony Cun - Student Advisor Profile
Beijing is a city rich in history and culture. It is full of different people with diverse backgrounds and interesting life stories. It is a city filled with endless places to visit, numerous opportunities for adventures, and plentiful people to interact with. Without a doubt there is never a dull moment in Beijing.
I had a moment in my junior year where I felt like I was missing something: an
experience that would help define my undergraduate career. I had never traveled outside of the country before, and the idea of being immersed in a foreign country greatly appealed to me. I was also intrigued by the classes offered in Beijing. As a Biology major as well as Pre-Med I have not had time to take classes outside of the life sciences. And so I decided to take a mini-break from my major and explore a different set of classes in a country I was really interested in. And it simply was one of the best decisions of my life.
Beijing is one of the few programs that do not have home stays. However it was not a downside of the program. I lived in the international student dorms – which was more like a hotel than a student dorm - on the Beijing University campus. By living on the university campus I was able to live the life of a Beijing University student. I had meals in their dining commons. I shopped at the campus convenient store. I played basketball with the students. Living on campus allowed me to bond with my fellow Stanford students as we were able to see each other.
The classes I took in Beijing were a breath of fresh air from the usual courses I have taken on the Stanford campus. All of my classes were really small and I was able to interact with my professors one-on-one. I was able to take an economics class with Chinese students, and it was the most fulfilling class I have ever taken.
It was interesting to hear their perspectives on the economy and to discuss current issues with them. We worked on projects that were not only interesting but stimulated our minds. For example, as part of a class project my group and I were able to go out into the city to gather data from actual Beijing residents which presented itself with some challenges in which we had to think of creative ways to overcome.
My first couple of weeks were a little tough as I did not have a strong background in Mandarin. Although it was a struggle, I eventually became confident in using the language with the locals even though I made several speaking and grammatical errors. Fortunately the Chinese are very interested in foreigners especially if they have some knowledge of Mandarin. And through these types of interactions I was able to better retain what I was learning in my language class because I was practicing speaking in real-life situations. Though I only took first-year Mandarin, I feel now that my speaking abilities are much better than before I studied in Beijing.
While in Beijing I had a few life-changing experiences. I had the opportunity to teach English at a migrant school as part of an ongoing research project led by
Professor Rozelle, the faculty in-residence. It was a challenge for me but with the help of a native Chinese speaker I was able to influence a group of young children and improve their English pronunciation. I also had lunch at a family’s house in a rural village during the Bing trip. It was an enlightening experience because I was able to listen to how living in the countryside was like and how their village was organized. Before this I could only imagine what living in a modern-day village would be like. And never would I have thought that in my lifetime I would have a meal prepared in a modern-day village.
The best part of being abroad for 3 months is that I had many opportunities to explore the city. Besides the program trips I let my curiosity take control and take me all over Beijing. I saw pandas at the zoo, nearly ate scorpions on the snack street, visited ruins of a palace, hiked up a 5,000-feet mountain, enjoyed the nightlife, and had many other adventures. Additionally a group of us did some traveling around China. We traveled to Shanghai, China’s most westernized city. For our program trip we went to the city of Xi’an, one of China’s ancient capitals. To me being in a location with so much history was a great feeling. And that feeling was common during my 3 months in China.
Studying abroad is for anyone with a desire to explore and immerse themselves in another part of the world. It was an experience that has expanded my scope of the world. I suggest everyone to at least consider and look into a few overseas programs.