To Hangzhou and Beyond!

On Thursday, Middlebury College kids got our first introduction to the Study Abroad program in Hangzhou, China. I will be attending the C.V. Starr-Middlebury School in the Spring of 2008. There is a good bunch of us going which is comforting but the fact that Middlebury Chinese students really just apply to the program on blind faith is a little worrisome.

Study abroad can be very troublesome for a lot of students but it is increasingly a popular option. Something about spending time drinking wine along a river anywhere in Europe or clubbing a la MTV Real World appeals to students in big way. Stories of very little studying and much more “cultural” learning contribute too.

Not to worry, I was reassured that Middlebury programs, particularly the Chinese program, have very sound academic foundations. In fact, I will taking four courses while I am abroad in Hangzhou. First, a “two students to one teacher” course aimed at raising our spoken fluency. Second, a “one teacher to one student” individually designed study. Lastly, two elective courses chosen from among a small selection including: newspaper reading, classical Chinese, Chinese cinema, etc. We attend classes five days a week, attending each class once a day.

As for dorm life, we’ll have it easy by Chinese standards by living in “international dorms.” As pointed out in my Shantou University posts in 2005, Chinese students typically share a dorm room with 6-10 roommates. Several Middlebury students are considering the option of living among the regular Chinese students but I certainly am not quite ready for that experience… Instead, I am looking into living with a family in China. That has its own downfalls especially if the family have kids learning English in which case, I’m told, you become the best English tutor in the region…

Overall, the meeting did wonders to calm my OCD-tendencies. I met the director of the program who is very knowledgeable and well-spoken. The director did mention, however, something I did not talk about a lot in my Shantou travels: people who look Chinese but can’t speak Chinese that well… She cautioned that our experiences “varied widely…”