China LBAT Debriefings: Students' Own Words

These debriefings are created by students to share their China LBAT activities, typically conducted during independent weekend excursions. The descriptions are an indication of the "out of classroom" experiences that students acquire on their own initiative, during their free time, and not as part of the official LBAT program.

These types of experiences are in keeping with the Chinese group's emphasis on practical application of Chinese language beyond the confines of the structured classroom. Note that the typical hazards and risk of travel should be carefully considered given that as outside activities, LBAT faculty and staff do not make travel plans for or accompany students.We suggest you consult these briefings as a baseline to "construct" your future China LBAT experience and stimulate your imagination of the opportunities that Chinese study in China can offer you, and be prudent and careful in all your China activities.

 Contents:


Eating in China & Budgeting for It, by 郝克雷 (Chris Harper)

Eight dollars a day in the Summer of 2012 was definitely enough to keep you well fed in china.  If you’re planning, you won't be able to indulge in multiple jasmine milk tea's  every night, and you might miss out on some of the culinary experimenting. However, you won't go hungry. That sounds a bit bleak, but even on 8 dollars you can have diverse and delicious three meals a day - excluding breakfast, breakfast is almost always the same. Let me illustrate through experience.

I would eat breakfast everyday from some food stands right outside of campus for under a dollar (3-5 RMB), this usually consisted of baozi or scallion pancakes and vending machine tea. For lunch you can eat cheaply at the cafeteria, the connected restaurant, or many of the nearby restaurants. At the cafeteria connected restaurant you can get some delicious noodles and bread for around two dollars (8-12 RMB). Off campus most places range in price from around two to four dollars for an entree (12-25 RMB).  The rest you can spend on dinner and/or some delicious beverages at CoCo's (seriously get the jasmine milk tea).

 If you are already planning on sticking to a tight budget I would recommend you start saving any money you can spare. I am not saying this because you need a lot of money to have a good time in china (which you don't), but because every dollar you refrain from spending now will probably bring you much more enjoyment spent in china.

Beijing Independent Excursion. 丁凱綸 (Melissa Ting), China LBAT 2012  

  • Transportation: Overnight Train-9 hours; soft sleeper (there were many other options but we took the nicer but also most expensive one.)
  • Beijing Accommodations: Pentahotel (4 star), very convenient location; 2 nights; 8 people sharing 2 hotel rooms
  • Must See Attractions (given limited time): Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and eat Peking duck
  • Attractions to See if You Can Squeeze It In: Summer Olympics Site, Night Market, Summer Palace
  • Special Trip Beta: While going as a big group is a great plus, it can also be to your advantage to split up into smaller groups so that everyone can see the sites they want to see most. Pack lightly and also just bring a set amount of money that you want to spend, otherwise you might be tempted to buy more than you can even carry.     

During our time in Shanghai we had one three day weekend, where almost everyone decided they wanted to travel to another city to experience another part of China. So we decided what better city to visit than Beijing, the capital of China? We gathered a group of 8 students together. We had two students become our organizers: one handled buying our train tickets while the other planned out our itinerary so we could maximize our time in Beijing.

The initial process of getting tickets included providing our passports and money to our first organizer who bought our tickets from the train station. He only returned our passports to us once we paid him the train tickets in full. This was a good way to ensure that everyone was accountable for his or her own payments. We ended up taking the overnight sleeper train with nicer-end accommodations, which included a private room that housed 4 people, each with a bed, a blanket, a pillow, a television, headphones, water, and even slippers. This made our nine-hour trip to Beijing a pretty pleasant experience.

When we got to Beijing we headed straight for our hotel. We had to weave through the crowds of people in the Beijing train station. The biggest problem we had traveling as such a large group was ensuring that everyone stuck together. We were always trying to keep a headcount. However, the large number of us kept the hotel rooms relatively cheap. Luckily, we were able to book our rooms in advanced thanks to the family of our second organizer. The reservation required us to have a credit card, which was provided to us by her local relatives (however, we were able to pay in cash when we got there). Once again we provide our passports, which they scanned and returned to us. We also had to pay a deposit for each room, which we got back after we checked out.

After settling down we were able to explore Beijing. We had a pretty tight schedule so that we could see Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Night Market, the Summer Palace, and the Summer Olympics site all in 3 days. As we toured the city we found it a lot easier to split up into several smaller groups so that people could walk at their preferred rates and also see what they wanted. My favorite part of the trip was the night market where we tried different street foods including scorpion and starfish. Of course the Great Wall was an amazing site as was the other cultural parts of China. It was pretty interesting to compare Beijing to Shanghai and see how different the two cities were. One big difference was in the way the locals spoke, their speech immersed with “er’s”. I would definitely recommend students to visit Beijing or any other city in China just to get a different aspect of the country as compared to Shanghai. 

LBAT Funding through Scholarships, by 孔美璘 (Jamie Kazenstein), China LBAT 2011 

  • Campoamor Scholarship
  • Gilman Scholarship
  • Freeman-Asia Scholarship

Funding the China LBAT is simple! With both the United States and China heavily invested in student exchanges between each other, there are now more funding opportunities than ever before for studying abroad in China. My scholarship application process was near effortless! It took no time at all for me to learn about three resourceful scholarships: the Campoamor Scholarship by the Ivan Allen College School of Modern Languages, the Gilman Scholarship by the U.S. State Department, and the Freeman-Asia Scholarship by the Freeman Foundation. All three of these scholarship programs have varying levels of commitment to increasing Chinese proficiency among U.S. Citizens. I decided to apply for each of these; however, given how competitive scholarships are, I was convinced I would be rejected from each. To both my surprise and relief, I received awards from all three programs. I had approached each of the scholarships with a defeatist attitude, certain that I was wasting time by searching for aid it was gratifying and humbling to see that I was not the only one that placed value in my education. In the end, it cost less for me to spend a semester abroad than a semester on campus. If I had given in to my defeatist attitude, however, I may not have applied for the scholarship programs. I implore you to follow this example! Believe in yourself and apply for every program you can get your hands on; someone, somewhere, is going to recognize the value of your education.

Post-LBAT Chinese Track to State Department—Lifelong Learning. By 谭天涂 (Ted Danowitz), China LBAT 2008; IAML 2010

  • LBAT + SJTU Bridge Course
  • International Plan
  • Semester Exchange at Renmin University
  • Summer Internship at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing
  • Teaching English in China
  • Working in State Department as Foreign Service Officer

In order to complete 26 weeks abroad required by the International Plan, I strung together the LBAT and a fall semester exchange program at Renmin University, in Beijing. These two programs were bridged by a short-term language class at SJTU. Both the Bridge and Exchange programs were valuable not only because they allowed me to exercise the language skills I’d developed during the LBAT, but also because of the multi-cultural experiences they afforded me.  The language classes are filled with students from all over the world. During my time at Renmin University the only Americans in the classes were another GT student and myself. I made friends with students from all over the world, and still keep in touch with many of them.

Being in China during the school year is a different experience from the LBAT. Chinese students return to campus from their summer vacation and are eager to make friends with native English speakers. I made several Chinese friends who were excited to help me practice my Chinese. They showed me around Shanghai and Beijing, providing me unique opportunities experienced by few visitors.

In the summer of 2009, I landed an internship at the U.S Embassy in Beijing working in the American Citizen Services section. This ideal internship allowed me to combine my language skills and my major studies. Every day of my internship I used Chinese to work with different officials in the Chinese government as well as the Chinese staff at the embassy. The embassy also provided me with a Chinese tutor, who I met with every day for an hour after lunch.  

After graduating from Tech in 2010, I moved to Zhengzhou to teach English at a local university. Zhengzhou is a “small” city of 8 million people in Henan province. By this point, I was sure I had learned everything there was to know about Chinese culture—wrong. Living in a Chinese city with virtually no international tourism was an entirely new experience. No one spoke English and very few people had seen a foreigner before.

I’m now working for the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer. My Chinese ability was an advantage in the recruiting process, and in the end proved useful when selecting my first post. This April, I will be moving to Guangzhou to work at the U.S. Consulate General for two years. As preparation, I am in language training for 5 months. This involves 6 hours of Chinese class a day and each class has a maximum of four people (I’m in one class with only one other student). It is incredibly intense, yet very personalized to each of our learning styles.

It’s important to keep something in mind when you’re learning Chinese: its applications stretch far beyond the classroom. If you really want to utilize what you’ve learned, there are countless in-country opportunities, and each of them will teach you something different. The Chinese language and culture are full of fun surprises, and you never know—your experiences may end up helping you get your dream job.

Huangshan National Park Independent Excursion. 孔美璘 (Jamie Kazenstein), China LBAT 2011

  • Transportation: Train and Bus. We took overnight train to Huangshan and rode a four-hour charter bus back to Shanghai at the end of our trip.
  • Accommodations: We stayed at the Best Western Huangshan Resort & Spa at the base of the mountain.
  • Food: We ate at the few local restaurants located at the mountain base. I had the fortune of having the best fried rice, fish, and tofu dishes of my LBAT trip at a local Huangshan restaurant.
  • Length of trip: We left Shanghai by overnight train on a Thursday night and returned by bus on Sunday evening. (Though ideally  you really need more time than this to explore the temples, waterfalls, and peaks of Huangshan)

We left for Huangshan 黄山  on a Thursday evening and returned to Shanghai Sunday afternoon. We stayed at the base of the mountain in the Best Western Huangshan Resort & Spa. There was a grocery store and a few restaurants around the hotel. We got all of our food from these places (including the best fried rice, fish, and tofu dishes I had while in China).

In visiting Huangshan, I recommend taking both the train and the bus. We took the overnight train on our trip to Huangshan and we traveled by bus on our return trip to Shanghai. I wouldn’t trade either experience or choose one over the other, because they each provided unique sights and opportunities. The overnight train gave us an unabashed view of China as we traveled through small towns, even smaller villages, and then untouched terrain. The passing landscape was not the only benefit to the overnight train, though. The train gave us more time to connect with other passengers. While three LBAT students played cards with other passengers, I was able to have a broad-ranging conversation with a Taiwanese husband and wife and two girls my age from Shanghai. It was the first time on the trip that I was on my own with Chinese people who didn’t speak English. It is, perhaps, my most valued experience from the LBAT.

Taking the bus back to Shanghai was like a quick, refreshing, palate cleanser. As we were each exhausted from our weekend trip to the mountains, it was fitting to take the four-hour bus ride to Shanghai instead of the overnight train. Being in such close proximity to everyone on the charter bus provided us with open conversations with everyone in ear shot. A television screen at the front of the charter bus provided us with KTVs, and we spoke in Chinese to those around us about such artists as Jay Zhou and S.H.E., and even sung along when we recognized a song. One acquaintance so enjoyed our meeting that she gave me a beautifully crafted peony on a white handkerchief that she had hand-stitched. 

Post-LBAT Internship at BMW in China, by 林深锐 (Cristina Lara)  

  • Work Abroad
  • Interships
  • AIESEC

There are tons of opportunities in China, but I will say that a current trend in interns is a higher fluency requirement than from when I interned there, even at my internship I had to do an interview in Chinese and all of my presentations at work had to be in Chinese.

As for finding internships, there are three main sources: Work Abroad, Chinese Internship posting sites, and AIESEC (I know I'm tooting my own horn for this one but it really is a great resource!).

Work Abroad: This is actually how I found my internship, an opportunity was posted in the newsletter and I applied. But just check with the newsletter and maintaining a strong relationship with your work abroad advisor really does go a long way

Internship Websites: Check on websites with job postings like http://www.echinacities.com/ you really have to do your research and sift through them a lot but I do know a lot of people that have found jobs this way. Another surprisingly resourceful website is LinkedIn. If you think about it, LinkedIn is the only foreign social networking site that isn't blocked in China so a lot of recruiters use LinkedIn to find potential employees. Just vamp up your page to look like a proper CV and start joining groups like Guangzhou Jobs and Internships, etc. If you want you can add me on LinkedIn and just find all the groups that I joined. I have received 5 internship/job offers through LinkedIn without even looking, so it's definitely something you should look into.

AIESEC: Last but not least, as President of AIESEC Georgia Tech, I do a lot more about the specifics of this. There are a lot of opportunities in Asia but they do require fluency in more than one language, and prior work experience. So if these are two requirements that you fulfill you should definitely check out what we have available right now on https://opportunities.aiesec.org/.

Some other words of advice, this is actually something that my work abroad advisor told me: in China things are not done so far advance in time like they are in the US. I remembers I started to look for internships around this time of the year, since I did do my experience after LBAT. But I got my offer from BMW 2 weeks before the LBAT ended. So if you get an internship now, awesome; but even while you're in China there is still hope, and sometimes it's preferred since they can just interview you on the phone. In your cover letter, definitely mention where and when you will be in China, because like BMW did with me, they might just decide to interview you while you're in the country.