I really love learning languages and about culture in other countries, so I have always had the desire to travel the world. Once I graduate, I would like to get a job that allows me to live abroad or at least travel abroad frequently. Also, as an international business major I am required to go abroad for at least a semester, so it really worked out for me.
Why did you choose CIEE?
I actually did not choose my program, my advisor chose it for me. I really wanted to study in Shanghai, but my advisor said the language program was better in Nanjing, so I went to Nanjing. I was a little regretful for not going with my first choice, but looking back now I am SUPER glad that I went to Nanjing.
What was your favorite part about China?
My favorite part was definitely all the people. The onsite staff were great and made sure everyone was okay in transitioning to living in another country and they were very helpful in aiding with any problem you encountered while there.
The other students in the program were also great. According to the teachers, we were one of the best groups they ever had. We all traveled together on our free time and just had a great time with each other all around. The Chinese roommates we had were also very great. They could help in teaching us Chinese outside of class and some even traveled with us as well, making for even more enjoyable experiences. In addition to making friends within the program, I also made a lot of friends outside of the program, and those friendships are what also made my experience in Nanjing fantastic.
What made your experience abroad most unique?
Again, I would have to say the people made my experience unique. If it had not been those people that were with me, I do not know how the semester would have went. We all got along really well and just enjoyed being in China and doing things together.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff were great! Not only were they our teachers, they also became our friends. They assisted you with any problem you had and did everything possible to help you in adjusting to life in China. I had no problem asking any of them for help no matter the situation. I even got relationship advice, because while there I dated a Chinese native for a while.
In one word I could describe the local staff as "cool." I have never had a teacher stop class because we looked tired to go get massages, and I have never had a teacher interrupt our homework time to say she wanted fried chicken and wanted to take us out to dinner. I would rate the staff 100/10 (no that is not a typo, I mean 100!). I really wish I could have packed them in my suitcase when I left.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
If I could do anything differently I would have traveled more around Nanjing. While Nanjing isn't as big as Shanghai or Beijing, it is still a big city to American standards. I got to travel all over China, but I wish I did a little more traveling within my host city.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
On a typical weekday, I would wake up about 7:30 a.m. and head down to class at 8 a.m. (I lived in the dorm and it was simple journey down the elevator from the 10th floor to the 2nd). From 8 a.m. until noon we would have our Chinese class (four hours seemed pretty long at first, but the 4 hours flew by super fast!). After class, usually we would break into groups and go out to eat lunch either at the cafeteria or a nearby restaurant. Then I would rest a while before I had tutoring, if it was a tutoring day. Then I would do some homework before dinner.
After dinner I would hang out with other students or some of the native friends I made. My favorite thing was just to walk around and go get Boba. Then before I went to bed I would do a bit of studying.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I'm a big fan of Boba, so in my free time I would always go get Boba. One time with a local friend we went to all the different Boba stores to taste test all their Boba, definitely one of my favorite memories. Other than that, I just enjoyed walking around the city with friends and just exploring.
Tell us more about your accommodation. What did you like best about it?
I lived in the dorm and I really enjoyed it. It was easy to get to class because we lived on the 10th floor and classes were on the 2nd floor of our building. I wouldn't call it a dorm though, it was more like a hotel. There was a cleaning staff that would clean every day and change your bed sheets once a week. My favorite part was that we got our own private bathroom in the room, so that was really nice.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Come in with no expectations. If you don't expect anything then you won't be sad if it was not what you were expecting. Also, don't pass on any opportunity. If something interesting comes up, you should definitely think about doing it!
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
My time abroad has made me more social. I'm a highly introverted person, so I do not like to talk a lot. Being in China and not speaking Chinese very well, I had some struggles talking to locals; but how was I going to learn if I did not try? Forcing myself to talk to people in another language made me more comfortable taking in my native language. I am much more active socially in class, at work, and with friends. I think my experience has made me more confident.
Would you recommend your CIEE program to others? Why?
I would 100 percent recommend the CIEE Nanjing program to anyone wanting to go to China and improve their Chinese, because Nanjing is great, the staff is great, and I think that they teach Chinese to foreigners in a way that is easy to understand.
Jacob is a triple major in international business, finance, and Chinese studies, with a Spanish minor, at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Prior to studying in China, he spent the summer studying in Spain. Jacob has also traveled to Italy, France, and South Korea.