Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Major: Int'l Politics and Economics (IPE)
Gap Year Description:
During my gap year, I was an exchange student in China. I lived with a host family and attended a Chinese high school in the city of Nanjing. I spent a great deal of time interacting with everyday Chinese people in my school, on the streets of my city and while I was traveling through the country. I did do some coursework while I was there, but found learning Chemistry in Chinese a bit redundant, so I spent the majority of my time studying Chinese on my own, learning culture and doing independent research projects about contemporary Chinese issues.
Through my host families, I got to see China family life from the inside. I spent Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year with my family, even traveling out to the non-heated Chinese countryside in the middle of winter. Being able to not only observe but also take part in these festivals helped me really learn about them by attaching personal meaning to them.
My exchange organization also led a few trips around the country, so I was able to see different parts of the country and the accompanying regional variation.
How it influenced your time at Middlebury:
My gap year experience has certainly influenced my time here at Middlebury. It gave me a little more time to explore before settling down again for four years. By spending so much time abroad, I certainly improved my Chinese, but also gained a more international perspective that has helped me relate to the large international population on campus and made for a few good insights in classes. Because of my experience, I'm also a little more "based" in my decision to study International Politics and Economics.