Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in China, get in touch with the advisor, Bill Mayers.

Student smiling with a panda in the background

Li Chun Lily Berkowitz, Smith College

Because the pandemic had postponed so many opportunities to study abroad in China, I was incredibly excited and lucky to have the chance to go to Beijing during my senior year. In the past I had taken Mandarin lessons, but it was only after arriving in China that I realized how useful that skill was. Being in Beijing for three plus months, as well as signing the Language Pledge, was a huge boost to improving my spoken Mandarin. Because there were only five of us in the program, it created a great, close knit environment between us and the teachers. Not only did the teachers and staff teach and support us academically, they also felt like friends.

While the workload definitely kept you busy, there was also a lot of time to explore the city. I loved seeing Beijing’s temples, parks, and museums, which at the same time displayed some of the many interesting cultural differences from the United States. Not to mention the amazing dishes and drinks that Beijing had to offer.

There are so many things that made the Beijing experience unique and fun, but lastly I wanted to mention one of my most favorite aspects of the program was the opportunity to be paired with a volunteer from the host university. It was because of this that I met Iva! Every weekend we would go on fun adventures in the city and talk about topics ranging from our favorite musicians to how each country deals with environmental issues. Studying abroad through the Middlebury Beijing program is definitely an effective and exciting way to practice Chinese language skills, experience Chinese culture, and meet new people!

Student posing in front of a mural

Amuna Sonomdagva, Middlebury College

Personally, China marks my third venture into studying abroad independently, and the experience has been truly mind-blowing. Transitioning from a tiny town like Middlebury to the bustling city of Beijing was a stark and exciting change. Our campus is close to a subway station and centrally located in the city, so such accessibility made it incredibly easy to embark on weekend adventures in citywalks (hutong), visiting temples and parks, and discovering cute coffee shops and delicious eateries. And yes, cool bars and clubs, too!

The classes I took during the program provided me a deep understanding of Chinese society, history, and culture, which I’m truly grateful for. It’s surprising how we delved into complex issues entirely in Chinese! Learning about the Cultural Revolution, contemporary Chinese society, politics, and significant figures like Mao and Deng Xiaoping made my experience more profound. Even in “Experience Beijing” class, we explored the history and significance of attractions beforehand. It was painful at a time, but we wrote many short and long essays in Chinese that improved my writing skills so much. This academic dimension sets us apart from regular language students and tourists, and it’s incredible to think I learned all this in Chinese! All the teachers were very encouraging and understanding, always wanting us to succeed and improve our Chinese. They became a family for us as they provided us support not only in academics but also in helping us integrate into life in China.

At first, my family encouraged me to learn Chinese, but after spending a semester in Beijing, my interest expanded beyond just learning the language. I developed a fascination with China and even contemplated pursuing a career path there. I loved it so much that after the program, I independently secured an internship at an animation company. Check out Scissor Seven!

Studying abroad is filled with possibilities, though it does come with significant challenges – challenges that, in retrospect, I believe were all worth facing.

A student and her Chinese roommate give the peace sign

Paige Alexander, Franklin & Marshall College, Beijing

Before coming to this program, I did not fully understand how truly magical our world can be. I came to MIC Beijing with decent reading and writing skills, but no speaking skills! I could barely get out a “我不知道,” but this program’s structure and staff offer an amazing support structure. As my Chinese improved, I also had the chance to create a real relationship with my roommate, 路瀛 (pictured here),instead of the broken sentences and quick pleco searches that we had both grown accustomed to. 路瀛 and I started sharing and discussing some of the many fascinating culture differences (and similarities!) between America and China. The bonus was that I was also able to practice Chinese.

Everyday I had the opportunity to explore Beijing, and I went to countless temples, museums, and even parks. I even tried danced along with the old Chinese women once or twice! I had the opportunity to explore new personal identities, as well as look at life through a new, broader lens. The program was difficult, in both an academic and an emotional sense, but the skills I learned because of it, from environmental adaptation to patience, made it well worth it.

A student stands with tapestries behind her

Clare Auld-Brokish, Wellesley College, Kunming

What better place to spend time in China than in Kunming? As a bustling city at the heart of economics, politics, and culture in southwestern Yunnan province, its relaxed atmosphere also gives its inhabitants the opportunity to enjoy its stunning natural vistas. With its immense diversity of culture, ethnicity, and ecology, Kunming offers a truly unique and engaging study abroad experience.

Middlebury gave me the autonomy and support to make what I wanted of this experience both academically and culturally, with the specialized one-on-one course and regular cultural group outings. The rigorous classes, complemented by the language pledge and my local roommate, fully prepared me to enter confidently into Chinese culture. I had a lot of fun marveling at the nuances of the new world I accessed as my language skills improved. I particularly loved spending afternoons exploring the city by bike and public transit.

Living in a new culture imbued me with maturity and resilience. Successfully navigating a new language gave me self-confidence and a new understanding of the world and my place in it. Participating in the Middlebury Schools in China imparted upon me a deeper respect and admiration for the country of my origin and changed the trajectory of my career goals. I am emboldened to realistically aspire to a future in which China plays a big part.

Over the semester, I gained many friends, both American and Chinese, who provided me with a strong community in Kunming. I could lean on them for support during trying times and could always find them for a good laugh. Long after we parted ways in China, I continue to rely on these friends.