I have just over a month to go before I depart for University Studies Abroad Consortium’s (USAC’s) summer session in Chengdu, China. Since being accepted into the program, I have been in steady communication with the staff at USAC, who have helped me register for classes, sign up for housing, and provided me with the documents and instructions necessary to obtain my Chinese visa. Overall, I have been really impressed with the clarity of information provided by USAC and the ease of navigating through the paperwork necessary to study overseas in China.
I chose to study abroad in Chengdu, which is located in the Sichuan province of China for a few reasons. In the map below, you will find the Sichuan province located in the Southwest corner of China, just west of Tibet.
Part of my logic in choosing to study abroad in Chengdu was that it was a Chinese city I had never heard of before. I think most Americans have heard of the major Chinese cities of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, but outside of those major cities, Americans as a whole, are not familiar with many other Chinese cities. According to Wikipedia, Chengdu has a population of over 10 million (urban population) making it larger than the cities of London, Hong Kong, and Chicago. In fact, if you browse lists of city populations there are 12 Chinese cities listed in top 50 most populous cities. Many of those cities are entirely unknown to me. I am intrigued by places that are entirely unknown, and thus, decided, studying in Chengdu seemed like a good idea.
Another factor in my decision to study in Chengdu was the history of China in general. I love history and China has a limitless amount of it. The first written history of China dates back to the Shang dynasty (1600-1050 BCE), over 3,000 years ago. The writing was discovered on what has become known as the “oracle bones.” The oracle bones consisted mostly of turtle shells or bones of animals that were used in divination. Questions were written on the bones and then heat was applied to the bones causing them to crack. A diviner then studied and interpreted the patterns of cracks and provided an answer to the question. This is just one small piece of Chinese history that I have discovered since being accepted to study in Chengdu, and I hope my stay in Chengdu will expose me to many more.
Finally, I picked Chengdu because of the large number of Peace Corps Volunteers who serve in China. Starting this fall, for the first time ever, Boise State is offering students a Peace Corps Prep program. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer myself, I am very excited about this new program that guides students through relevant curriculum, professional and volunteer experience, and leadership development, which ultimately make them strong Peace Corps applicants. Currently there are 140 volunteers serving in China, primarily as English teachers in colleges or universities. As my Peace Corps service was in Belize as a Youth Development volunteer working on sexual health education, I wanted to better understand what it would be like serving in China. I anticipate Chinese culture is very different from that of Central America and the Caribbean (Belize has elements of both of these regions) and the service is probably quite different as well. As my role in the new Peace Corps Prep program at Boise State is helping students navigate through these experiences, I hope to be able to provide a slightly expanded understanding of what Peace Corps service can be like.