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China Study Abroad Experiences Impacts Student’s Education and Career Goals

Jennifer Giese didn’t know the impact her Lone Star College-CyFair summer study abroad classes would have, but this graphic design student now plans to major in computer science and minor in Chinese.

Giese was one of 11 students who spent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in China earning college credit for Beginning Chinese I and World History I which Professors Carolyn Ho and Robert O’Brien taught, respectively.

“It was life-changing. It was unreal,” said Giese, who would jump at the chance to return to China. “Everything was so great because I had no idea what it would be like and how I would feel about it.”

The inaugural study abroad class experienced modern China while learning its language, history and culture. The class studied and resided on campus at the International College of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou as well as stayed in Beijing their last four days in China. In addition to classroom lessons, field trips brought history to life and the streets, markets and restaurants of both Hangzhou and Beijing served as an "open language lab" for learning Chinese.

The group visited historic sites around Hangzhou, such as West Lake, Lingyin Buddhist Temple, statues and carvings, the Grand Canal (Wuzhen, a water town), China Silk Museum, Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum and Baopu Taoist Temple. Sites in Beijing included tours of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Olympic venues and the Great Wall.

“There’s nothing in my life to compare this to … like I never thought I would be on the Great Wall. It was a very vigorous walk and not a friendly walk. But it was awesome,” said Giese. “You read about it, but we got to walk it and see it with our own eyes.”

Giese, whose mother is from England, has traveled to Europe numerous times and the Caribbean, but there was still some culture shock such as the food and particularly the language. Not one word is the same in English, she said. Different tones determine different meanings. Giese went on to say she had fun meeting new people, going out dancing and shopping in the silk market. She also took more than a thousand photos while in China, some of which were included in LSC-CyFair Bosque Gallery’s exhibition in August.

This fall Giese is still in graphic design program working toward a technology program for computer science at University of Houston. She will also continue studying Chinese and admits she would jump at the opportunity to return to China.

“If you are open-minded and want a great opportunity, there should be nothing to stop you,” said Giese, who recommends checking out LSC-CyFair’s study abroad options. “You have to be willing to roll with the punches, tough it out. It’s only a month. And it’s worth the experience.”

LSC-CyFair also offers a summer study abroad program in Italy. For information on Italy, China, scholarships available and other Lone Star College System Study Abroad programs, go to http://www.lonestar.edu/study-abroad.htm.