A Home away from Home: CIEE Chile meets CIEE China
The entry below was written by a CIEE alumna who studied in Chile, and spent summer 2013 in Beijing. This is what happened when she reached out to the staff the CIEE Beijing Study Center. :)
My name is Fan, and I’m a senior studying comparative literature (Spanish emphasis) and history (modern China emphasis) at the University of Southern California. Counterintuitively, I did not actually study abroad with CIEE Beijing. I did, however, have an incredible encounter with them this summer, the result of a good mix of what the Chinese call “yuanfen” (meaning “fate that brings people together”), globalization, and the CIEE Beijing office’s amazing hospitality and kindness.
I did study abroad with CIEE in the fall of 2012, but in Santiago, Chile. Because I study two different parts of the world and hope to connect the two in both my senior thesis and future career, I’ve spent the majority of this past year split between China and Latin America. Last summer I spent a month in Shanghai before heading off to Chile. This summer I decided to come back to China for an internship in Beijing.
I had such a wonderful and memorable experience with CIEE Santiago, that when I got to Beijing, I decided to contact the Beijing office for local volunteer opportunities. I didn’t quite know what they would make of my out-of-the-blue email, but John, Student Services Coordinator, immediately invited me to visit the CIEE office and even promised some “CIEE swag.”
As soon as I stepped into the office, the CIEE staff warmly welcomed me. They also offered for me to nap on their classical Chinese furniture, mooch off of their wifi, and fill up my one liter CIEE Beijing water bottle (“CIEE swag”) at their office, even after joking that “our students drink too much water.” They also invited me to join in on their expert lecture series, in which I got to see presentations by KuoRay Mao (CIEE Resident Director) on development of Northwest China and Wesley Jacks on Chinese cinema.
Moreover, after hearing about my interest in NGOs, KuoRay offered to pass my resume to and put me in contact with several NGOs he was in touch with so that I could get a feel for the NGO environment in China. He also encouraged me in a number of post-graduation plans.
Through KuoRay, I also met Zhao Zhong, the director of Pacific Environment, who sat down patiently with me for over an hour to talk about the history of environmental NGOs in China. When I told him I hoped to research the interconnections between China and Latin America, he dropboxed me a long list of resources, ranging from magazine articles to his own research proposals.
When I sent that one email to the CIEE Beijing office, I could not even have imagined the warmth they would show me this past month. The CIEE Beijing staff immediately made me feel at home in Beijing (in fact, they actually told me “you have a home here”). Their enthusiasm in supporting me and making my time in Beijing as enriching as it could possibly be has given me a deeper appreciation for the CIEE family. They’ve shown me that CIEE is so much more than just regional study abroad programs in over 40 countries, but that it is an organization that truly that reflects the increasing interconnectedness of our world, a world in which a student who has found a home in Chile is welcomed to another home in Beijing, half the world away.
From Right to Left, Dr. KuoRay Mao, Summer Resident Director, Ms. Yan Jing, Office Coordinator Ms. Fan, Mr. Hua Ye, CIEE Minzu University Program Assistant, and John Urban, Student Services Coordinator.