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The Alliance in Beijing: Popular Culture and Social Change

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

An American in Beijing

I found this program to be very immersive, and actually a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be. I was really able to improve my Chinese skills, and when I came back, my professors saw a huge leap in my Mandarin learning curve, as I was much more comfortable speaking both formally and colloquially. I was also able to go on trips to the more rural areas of China that you don't usually get to see as a tourist and the program made sure we were exposed to professional opportunities as well, offering to connect you with businesses in China looking for interns. Since the program usually is not very large, I became close friends with the program managers, and they always are very helpful in connecting you with more ways to engage with the city.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    7

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Literally, the Best Four Months but....

First, let me start by saying that my four months in Beijing were arguably be the best months I’ve ever had. The Alliance obviously had a great part in that, but there were some things that could have been better.

My biggest class consisted of seven students. It was a class setting that I had never really encountered before but one that I was overjoyed to find out I thrived in. The small seminar style made me more comfortable and willing to make valuable class contributions. The smaller class size also made me feel that the professors could devote more to the particular needs of each student.
I’d also like to highlight the required class, Contemporary Social Change in China, particularly because of the amazing professor. It was taught by Professor David Groth who has impressive credentials. It class was always just so enjoyable that I looked forward to it every week. My favorite thing about him is that he engaged with us students on a deeper level and incorporated parts of us into the lesson. For example, I was born in Colombia. When we were doing a unit on women’s issues in China, we talked about prominent female figures in Chinese society. Professor Groth then took this opportunity to compare these women with other important women in my home country. I was extremely appreciative of everything he did.
I do have one complaint about the classes. As a Political Science/Sociology major with an International Studies minor, I took the required class and Chinese Foreign Policy. I then had to choose another elective and I could either take Chinese music or Chinese film. I have no musical inclinations or even that much of an interest of music so I chose film. However, I had absolutely no interest in the subject matter and honestly didn’t not enjoy it at all. In fact, kinda dreaded going every week. I’m also highly skeptical that the music class would have been any better for me. I just wished there would have been other options.
Also, the Chinese class was legit. Absolutely hated waking up for it every day at 9am but I still can’t believe how much Chinese I learned. I had never studied the language before coming and now after completing the program, I can generally express myself in normal everyday situations. I practiced on my other Chinese friends here in the US and they couldn’t believe it either.

The program is hosted at Beijing Language and Culture University and there literally could not be a better location. You live in an international student dorm so you get to meet a lot of other people your age from around the world. The dorms, while not as great as mine in the US (haha), still have everything you need and are very comfortable. They’re also much better than what the Chinese students have. Although, you have to pay for the gym separately and but they’re terrible facilities. The university is also two blocks from this place called Wudaokou which has everything you want from anything. There’s a shopping mall, tons of different restaurants, low-key and even high-key bars, and a bunch of clubs. Also, the train station is right there if you need it for anything. I loved Wudaokou so much, I wish I could have taken it back with me.

One of the best parts about the program were the excursions and traveling. The program took us to all the important things like the Great Wall, Summer Palace, and Temple of Heaven. But one of my favorite weeks was when we went to Qinghai in Western rural China. We got to meet a more diverse part of the Chinese population and got exposed to a lot of Tibetan culture. I rode horses and yaks, laid on my back to see a ridiculous amount of stars at night, and woke up early to climb an actual mountain to see the sunset. It really was such an amazing few days.
The program also gives you an independent travel week. I went with some friends to Shanghai and a travel beach spot called Sanya in Hainan province. We had some difficulties with us being a group of foreigners running around China alone but we had a lot of fun and could always called of program director if we needed help. The staff in Beijing always made themselves more than available if needed anything.

However, there were some things that the program could do better with. In the weeks prior to my arrival, the office headquarters in the US felt somewhat disorganized. I later learned that other people had a lot of issues with that. Also, I had a friend who was going to continue being in Beijing with Alliance for another semester. However, apparently not enough people enrolled and they had to completely cancel it. I guess that’s not the program’s fault, but my friend had to completely change her plan.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the program. I really did have such an amazing time. I’m glad the Alliance gave me the opportunity to study in this major world city and do all the things I was able to do.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    7

A Great Abroad Experience

The Alliance is genuinely interested in the personal, professional, and academic development of their students. The program will academically challenge you because it wants students to gain the most out of their time in the city and campus. Volunteering and interning is also a possibility and the program director and assistants are extremely dedicated to helping students find their perfect fit! And the program plans numerous cultural activities that will keep you busy in all sorts of great ways!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

Beijing

I really loved my time abroad and can't wait to go back. Studying in the big city, Beijing, I was able to experience old and new. The program was great in providing help needed for independent travel, and any problems I had (when I was sick someone from the program took me to the doctor, or if I needed help printing something or receiving mail, the program helped with all of these things). The host family program is great, especially in China, where staying with a host family is relatively unheard of. While food is not provided, the costs are very cheap and you get a lot of food for your dollar. The dorms are in a very convenient part of Beijing, and I was surrounded by other international students as well as Chinese students. It's a great mix of not only Chinese students from different parts of the country, but also foreign students as well. The opportunity to travel in China is an experience that should not be taken for granted. During the mid way mark through the semester, students go on a field study trip with the Alliance. This trip covered many parts of China in a small amount of time, and was very beneficial in getting to see and do things I would not have known how to do on my own. For the independent study trip, the program also helps with recommendations on where to go, best places to buy tickets, etc. I really enjoyed my time in China and think the small program Alliance provides was crucial in making it a lasting experience.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

A Program that Challenges You

The Alliance's Beijing program will give you the opportunities to go beyond the regular class room experiences. You may one day be walking through the Olympic Swimming Cube and the next day listening to Mongolian throat singers. You'll never know where the city, people, friends, and most interesting yourself take you. The education you will gain is unique, the experiences are one of a kind, and the friends you will make will last (even months after you all left). My favorite part of the program was the study trip! It is a week of climbing mountains, seeing pandas, and learning about Tibetan culture and life. I would have never ever imagined I would receive such an extraordinary memory or believe I would be having conversations with locals in a foreign language! The best part of all is the programs constant encouragement of practicing, studying, and using the language! By far the best (and I think the only authentic way) of learning a foreign language!