Alana Perez - 2015 Program Participant

International students visiting the Forbidden City

Not-so-Forbidden City

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I decided to go for an international program, because I knew it was the only program that would allow me to study a language outside of the classroom.

Why did you choose Alliance for Global Education?

I had a few friends older than me who had gone through Alliance for their study abroad experience, and their stories about how supported they were by the program made me more sure about living abroad for so long.

What was your favorite part about the Beijing Language and Culture University?

Beijing Language and Culture University isn't at the heart of Beijing. If you look at a map of Beijing, it looks like a bullseye, with rings that sector the city. We were in one of the outer rings, about a thirty minute subway ride from the city. But BLCU's campus was in the heart of its own college area. Their campus was one of many college campuses in within a five mile radius, so it had a college feel to it. I like the city-ness of the area without being insanely busy.

Jumping shot on the Great Wall of China

Casually on the Greatest of Walls

What surprised you most about Beijing?

I was surprised at how many foreigners actually lived in Beijing. Not just students, but working people from the U.S., Europe, and Africa. I guess part of me just never suspected that the community would not only be big, but also really close knit.

What made this program stand out as unique?

None of the other programs we looked at were as small as the Alliance Beijing program, but I think this made it better. We became really close really fast, which was something I don't think we would get with a larger program.

Did local staff support you throughout your program?

Yes, definitely. Both the resident director and resident director's assistant went above and beyond to help us.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have wandered the city more. I think Beijing has so much history and dynamic characters you don't get to see in the museums and tourist spots. My most memorable moments were unplanned moments, getting lost in the hutongs, and trying random foods.

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

My morning started off with a 9 a.m. class. I had class until 1:30 p.m., with breaks in between for lunch. After class, I would do homework for a bit, then hang out with my friends until dinner. We usually walked around the city or went shopping in the evenings when we weren't practicing for oral exams.

Statue at the top of Mount Emei

Climbing Mount Emei

What was one of your favorite activities outside of the classroom? 

Definitely the week-long trip to Sichuan. It was a long activity, but I think it was the most engaging and intriguing times I had while in China.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I was in a dorm for the first half of the semester, then I lived with a host family. The dorm room was really nice and the staff were so accommodating. My host family also treated me like I was one of their own. We would sit around after dinner and talk about random things, and it was awesome.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad was definitely the culture shock that came with being in a new city. Homework added to the stress of adjusting to transportation and difficulty understanding the people.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

When I first got to Beijing, my Chinese was really rusty. But after a while it became increasingly easy to strike up conversations. Granted, sometimes I was still thoroughly confused by the Beijing accent.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in China?

I wish I would have known to pack less. I wore and wore the same clothes over and over again. Beijing was dusty, so I found rewearing clothes was the best way to save laundry money. Also, if I had packed less I could have brought more souvenirs home.

Hiking in Sichuan

Random mountain peak in Sichuan

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Beijing?

PACK LESS. If you think you are going to need it, you don't. Pack less, look at what you packed, and slim down more. Trust me, you will have a lot of fun clothes shopping over there. You really only need one warm jacket, one light jackets, some pants, and a few shirts.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?

I am much more eager to go back to China once I graduate. I am more sure of my own understanding of the language, and I know I will be able to get by, this time without support.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would probably go to somewhere in the Middle East, like Turkey. I am fascinated by Turkish art and history.