Proctor in China: Summer Study Abroad 2018

Posted by Proctor in China


Proctor in China is a four-week culture and language immersion trip for Proctor students interested in experiencing cultural immersion, developing their Mandarin language skills, and earning one full year of language credit toward their graduation requirements. For this summer's group of eight students and two faculty members, Mandarin teacher Jon Beard and Admissions Counselor Ilyena Kozain '10, the past month of once in a lifetime experiences will certainly take time to fully appreciate. 



Students traveled through southwestern China to the town of Shangri-La in northwestern Yunnan Province, east of the Himalayas on the Tibetan plateau. Yunnan province, in particular, is a fantastic area to explore because of its enormous cultural diversity, historical significance in terms of trade, and its relative remoteness. In addition, the town of Shangri-La itself is a cultural crossroads due to its proximity to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and 80% or more of the residents of Shangri-La are Tibetan. Once in Shangri-La, students lived with home stay families who spoke Mandarin and have children roughly similar in age to them.  


Students also participated in four hours of language classes each weekday, and of course had countless opportunities to practice their Mandarin in markets, with their home stay families, and with friends. During the weekends, they embarked on various exciting excursions, including a five-day trek around Kawagarbo Mountain, one of the mountains considered most sacred and holy by the Tibetan people. Each day, the group met to reflect and share thoughts and feelings about all that they experienced. Through our group meetings, group excursions, and classes, students are supported in and can get the most out of their home stay experiences. The news of faculty member Dave Pilla's unexpected passing while the group was abroad elevated the need to draw near as a team and support one another. 

Students share reflections on their month in China below, and be sure to read more blog posts from Proctor in China HERE!


Van '20: 

I cannot describe the past four weeks in just a few paragraphs because I have learned so much in so little time. The memory of us arriving in Kunming is still burning vividly in my mind. I even remembered meeting the group at Guangzhou and how happy I felt just seeing them. I did not experience too much of a hardship in my homestay even if I was very nervous about it at first. They were very welcoming and that had helped so much.
I have not only learned Mandarin, I have learned so much more than a language. Although I have improved tremendously language wise, I had learned much about Chinese culture and myself in the process: I have a passion for learning new languages, I could overcome hardship when I believed in myself, and I love discovering and exploring. More importantly, I have gotten to know the individuals that formed this amazing group which made this trip so special and great. Everyone in the group has their own special and unique personality, so when we come together as a group, it made this opportunity so special.


Chloe '20: 

This experience has not only taught me about Chinese culture, and the language, but also about myself and how to be a better part of a group as well as traveling and observing different lifestyles. I am so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had, and for the people we have met. Van and I were so lucky to have a home stay mom who was so caring and treated us like her own girls; giving us rides to school, teaching us new words, and having late night conversations with us. I’ve learned how to push myself outside of my comfort zone and practice asking questions when I’d rather stay quiet. I’ve also tried new foods I wouldn’t think of trying in the states like: chicken feet, chicken brain, yak butter tea and rose flowers. I’ve loved every time Van and I got lost and found our way home on the streets and being able to pick up on native Chinese speakers conversations. I loved every hike, especially to the sacred Yubeng waterfall, and having so many peaceful moments like talking with a Buddhist monk and learning from him. Looking forward, I’m so excited to carry these lessons and experiences with me to go further in life and learn more mandarin and explore other cultures.


Marshall '19:

China was a very interesting experience. We did a lot of hiking and traveling. We saw a lot of rural mountains and cities. Understanding people was challenging, but slowly I got better. I have improved my Mandarin and can speak more complexly. I have learned that I am good at hiking and hope to do more of it in the states (probably).

Myles '19: 

This past four weeks have been a strange, but very fun and a life-changing experience for my fellow group mates and I. We have been through a lot together, including the passing of Dave Pilla, along with other twists and turns that changed the groups prospectives on each other and the world around them. From the first day of getting to China, this group has bonded in a special way that I have never experienced on any team, in any class, or group. I have felt that this group has also changed emotionally, especially after hearing the news of Dave’s death. Although that news revolved around my head and others for the second half of the trip, I have felt that I continued to move forward, while still feeling the pain and sadness of a teacher, whom I knew my whole entire life, pass away. On that day of hearing the news, it’s as if this group hit some sort of switch, and changed the way of viewing one another. We began to become very close, learning one another’s interests, and picking each other’s brains with questions about their life experiences and stories. Before this trip, I never would have known I would speak to some of these people, but that is what off campus programs are about at Proctor. Along with experiencing things some people will never get to experience in their life, Proctor brings a group of 8-10 students with different backgrounds, come together, and make memories that will last a life time. I am very thankful for Proctor, and the opportunities that the school gives its students. Being able to study abroad in China brought memories, sadness, and happiness to my group and I, and I wouldn’t have want to spend it with a different group of people.

Declan '19:

These last four weeks in China were some that I will never forget. We hiked to places I would’ve seen otherwise, we stayed in homes of families with opposite cultural norms as ourselves, and we bonded as a group when we came in not knowing everyone. The decision to come this far away, taking a month out of summer, was most likely hard for everyone on this trip, but for me in particular, I felt the accomplishment of throwing myself into this opportunity without studying the native language in a classroom setting. Now, at the end of the trip, I have learned so much about the culture and the language that I was able to hold my own - speaking and listening. It was a surprise to me, and to a lot of the others, that I was able to gain a functioning mandarin knowledge, where I could have a flowing conversation with added detail. Tashi and his crew were a very big reason why we could have the amazing memories we did on this trip, wether it was driving us hours away or the fact that Tashi knew at least one person everywhere we went. I learned that I have more of a willingness to try new things than I originally thought, whether it was going to get a Chinese foot massage (kind of by accident), being able to eat new foods like yak meat or chicken feet, or running through glacier water at 13,000 feet. One of my favorite memories was spending five hours at a natural hot spring. We ate dinner by the spring, lugged a microwave for popcorn, and swam in very hot water. Overall the trip was an awesome experience, I met so many amazing people, I became even closer to some already close friends, and I am very thankful that Jon invited me to come on this trip in the first place.

Tahg '21: 

Coming into this trip, I didn’t really know about half of the group, but within in these short four weeks, I could probably tell you fifty things about each person. I did not expect to grow this close to a group like us. Everyone who came to China with me, now feels like my family. It is going to be hard to leave everyone, but I miss my real family. It is hard being away for a month and not being able to see the people you used to see everyday. However, that makes going back to them one hundred times better. Even though the first week feels less months ago, I remember everything we did. We went to a new place everyday, there was usually some hiking involved, but that did not faze me because of the group I was with. I got closer and closer to every single one of them every single day. Whether it was learning something new about them or just having a quick laugh. Ilyena was one person, who, I think, I got the closest to. We played cards everyday together, sharing our love for competition, but, at the same time, growing one of the strongest bonds I have. She helped me realize a lot, but most importantly, that we are close to being the same person. I would never have expected to grow so close to her, but here we are. However, Ilyena was only one great thing on this trip. Going into the home-stays was both exciting and terrifying. The first night Declan and I were in there, we did not understand a word they were saying. Our family had to speak into their phones the whole night, trying to translate it, but even the translations didn’t make sense. The second night got so much better because I was starting to understand what they were trying to say to us and I felt closer to the family. As each day went by in the homestay, they felt more like a family I had in China. There were a lot of ups and downs on this trip, but I would say that it is one of the greatest things I have ever decided to do.

Nate '19:

China was an awesome experience, there where so many memorable moments, and eye-opening experiences. My favorite part was staying in the homestay, where, because our host family rents their house, we got to meet dozens of people from all over China and we got to talk to them about their home towns and what they liked to do, I think that it gave me a much broader sense of Chinese culture. I also really enjoyed all the food we ate here. Chinese food for me no longer just means General Tso's chicken, there are hundreds of dishes and variations of food that we had pleasure of trying. For me, what really made this trip was the group. Everyone here never failed to make me smile if I was having a bad day, and they only made the good days better. I learned how powerful and energizing a good group can be - everyone here pushed each other to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. I think that the most important thing that I took away from this trip was the importance of communication, whether it be with the people here with me, with my host family, or my family on the other side of the globe. I learned how important it is to communicate your feelings, appreciation, and respect. I think that this trip really helped to broaden my world view and expand my appreciation for other cultures.

Alex '19:

After spending four weeks I am struggling with the fact that I will be leaving Shangri-La. Since I have arrived, I feel much more connected with the city having commuted by bike, bus, and taxi for much of my stay. My homestay family was integral to my experience here. Their hospitality and generosity helped me a lot with my mandarin studies, but also with understanding Chinese culture. Of the time here, what stood out was our time in the Yubeng village and our hike in the Meili Snow Mountain. There we learned a lot about Tibetan Buddhism and the religious importance of the waterfall. One thing that I learned about myself and the group is our ability to not only persevere through hardship but also work with each other to succeed in these situations. This sounds like a typical reflection to me but when applied to our situation it shows the motivation of everyone here, Jon, Ilyena, and Tashi included. We are all in the middle of a foreign country with a language we are still learning exploring the mountainsides of Yunnan and absorbing the culture of the region. I’m incredibly satisfied with my trip to China and am sad to see that it has passed. It will be very jarring to adjust back to American culture and I am very interested to see how I have grown to my friends and family.

Matt '19:

I have had the most amazing time of my life on this trip. I have seen some of the most beautiful mountain ranges, ate some of the best food I’ve ever had, and met people from around the world. Being fully immersed in China has given me a new perspective on the world and I feel that I’ve grown immensely as a Chinese speaker. Through the weeks of the homestay we learned to overcome the hardships associated with living with a family who doesn’t know great English. Even though we struggled through the stay, we developed a great relationship with our host family. The weirdness and craziness of China will always be some of my fondest memories. From the driving, to the men who sang to us in the restaurant, to the child pooping in front of his parents store, China is a unique country. Living together and witnessing all of this together as a group helped us to bond and in the end we collected all of these great memories. Since our visas are valid for 10 years, we have all expressed interest in coming back to China, especially since the Bodhi Inn feels like a second home. I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent in China and can’t wait to return in the future. Thank you to Jon and Ilyena for being the two best directors anyone could have on this trip.
Read all of Proctor in China's blog entries here!

Subscribe to Email Updates

The Buzz at Proctor

Posts by Topic

see all

Blog Archives

see all

Recent Stories

Speak with someone in Admissions