Back to SummaryAshley Tanaka - Student Advisor Profile
MAJOR: International Relations, Chinese
Studying abroad in Beijing last fall was an ideal way to kick-off my junior year at Stanford. What made my experience even more special was that it was my first time traveling internationally to a foreign country – marking the very first stamp in my brand-new passport!
Even though I had started studying Mandarin Chinese in high school, I never had the opportunity to go to China until I went to Beijing through BOSP. In all honesty, this made me a little hesitant at first: I expected to feel much culture-shock, since my very first time to China – let alone to a foreign country – wouldn't just be to play tourist for a couple of weeks, but to study and live there as a student for three months.
To my surprise and delight, I seldom encountered (and when I did, it was pretty mild) culture-shock throughout the length of the program. Although the Chinese could tell I was a foreigner, most assumed I was from Korea, so I guess I didn't seem extremely foreign to them. I am actually only a quarter Korean, and also a quarter Chinese, and half Japanese. I grew up in a very Asian-American household, and was raised with only English. My maternal grandmother is Chinese, and what she has taught me about Chinese culture has only increased my appetite to digest as much as I can about Chinese culture. Thus, what better way to achieve this than to actually travel to China?
I am very glad BOSP chose Beijing as the city to host Stanford’s study abroad program in China. Beijing truly is China's cultural capital, where you get to
experience the many colors and flavors of Chinese culture. While in China, I also traveled down to Shanghai twice (the first time was in October during National Week, with friends I made in the program; and the second time with my family who met up with me at the end of the program), Huangshan (for our Bing program trip), and Hong Kong (also with my family, after the program). Beijing was my favorite city by far, but I still recommend traveling to other cities if you get the chance.
Stanford and Peking University (or “Beida,” short for “Beijing Daxue”) have a very solid relationship. This is made very apparent, as you will find through participating in the Beijing Program. I appreciated how the Beijing Program offered a very good balance between providing us with very good accommodations and resources (essentially taking good care of us), while giving us much freedom to explore the city to our hearts’ desires. While it might be more comfortable and natural, I encourage any Beijing program participant not to just hang out with your fellow Stanford students all the time and do the things
you could very well do back at Stanford. Instead, I would suggest making the most of your time abroad to really immerse yourself into Chinese culture: which might include making friends with Beida students, chatting with taxi drivers, and just going out to explore the city whenever you can rather than staying in your room all day. I would do your best to take advantage of the three months you have in China, because I found – to my dismay – that they really fly by faster than you can imagine.
In essence, I strongly encourage anyone interested in China and with a desire to go abroad to apply for the Beijing Program. The quarter I spent abroad there was not only one of the best quarters of my Stanford career thus far, but was also one of the best times of my life.