Peking University

Name: Brenna Hamel   |   Country: China   |   Date: Fall/Winter/Year Long, 2017

Related Experience: Exchange: Peking University

For how long did you stay abroad?

10 months

Why did you choose to learn abroad?

I chose to learn abroad initially for professional development reasons and the opportunity to travel and live in a culture that I have never encountered before.

You will discover more about yourself from one year abroad than you would in your entire university career!

What are the specific skills that you learned or developed?

I have learned a lot about the way I problem solve, especially given the significant language barrier, the way I handle stressful situations, and my ability to adapt to a variety of circumstances including the social culture and household culture of the Beijing citizen. In addition to personal development, I have chosen to study Mandarin, and therefore have developed the skill of language learning, which has been totally unique to learning any other subject or skill, and the ability to speak, read and write Mandarin. Learning about the Chinese language has also helped me better understand the culture. In addition to Chinese language learning, I studied Chinese politics,financial engineering, and investment banking, which was an incredibly unique experience because they were all taught in the context of China. Living within the Chinese economy and within the Chinese politics has not only helped me to understand why the policies are necessary, but also how they are executed and monitored in everyday Chinese life.

What benefits did you get from the experience?

Personal development has certainly been a significantly beneficial part of my exchange. In addition to this, I have benefited academically by learning about China’s culture, language, politics, and economy whilst in China, my Chinese would never have developed so quickly in an environment where you do not need to speak it to survive. I think another significant benefit is how cheap it is to consume in China in every respect. This not only allows you to experience a lot more of the culture (through theater, museums, and of course, restaurants), but also allows you to travel to other Asian countries whilst in the area.

Brenna Hamel
Brenna Hamel
Please, name 2 challenges that you faced and how you overcame them in your experience.

The language barrier has been a significant challenge for me, especially in my first few months. Because I came to China to study Chinese, the language barrier was motivation for me to work harder in my classes and practice more on my own because, at times, being able to communicate in Chinese has been a necessity. Another challenge has been the mannerisms used by the general public while using social resources such as the subways, the restaurants, banks, online ordering services etc. The employees tend to be impatient with people who cannot speak Chinese well, which can pose many problems, and occasionally tends to lead to foreigners being ripped off because either 1. they do not understand what they are agreeing to, or 2. the Chinese people can identify that they do not know the local market price of a particular good and over charge. Furthermore, in the subways, people tend to be unaware of their surroundings and like to push and shove (especially during rush hours) because the trains are packed! This took some time to adjust to, especially coming from the warm and fuzzy mannerisms of Canadians.

I have learned a lot about the way I problem solve, especially given the significant language barrier, the way I handle stressful situations, and my ability to adapt to a variety of circumstances including the social culture and household culture of the Beijing citizen.

Would you recommend learning abroad to a friend? Why?

Yes of course, for 3 reasons.
1: Take advantage of the opportunity to travel while you are young.
2. Be curious. Let your curiosity be your guide, not fear. There is an unbelievable amount that goes on in the world simultaneously to your life, and too many people choose to disregard it.
3. You will discover more about yourself from one year abroad than you would in your entire university career! Your strengths, your weaknesses, how you adapt to different cultures, how you handle challenges, how you adapt socially in a foreign environment, how to deal with the unknown, how to live away from your loved ones, which friends you value most in your life (the ones you will stay in touch with after a year of not being together), and the list goes on and on.

If you want to test your boundaries, push yourself to your limits, an exchange throws you into an absurd situation and then you get to watch yourself excel like you could never imagine.

Brenna Hamel