Jian Liang

Hi! I went abroad the summer after my Freshman Year, and it was a completely transformative experience. Not enough Rice students study abroad because of fear of not knowing the language, not wanting to go alone, or not having the time, and I hope to help people make the decision to change that!

I studied abroad with the Harvard Beijing Academy (HBA or 哈北班 for short), a nine-week, intensive Chinese language program, hosted by Harvard. The activities, curriculum, and housing/food and glowing reviews is what first led me to choose this program. HBA wasn’t on Rice’s designated list of programs, so I applied through a petition process with the help of a study abroad adviser.

Upon arriving in Beijing, I was undoubtedly outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t know anyone in the program, and my Chinese was far from fluent. On my first day of classes, I even learned I had been writing my own Chinese name wrong in all the 18 years of my life. How embarrassing! After taking the language pledge, I remember thinking, “How am I going to spend this entire summer speaking only Chinese? More importantly, how am I going to make friends?” But through our shared experience of learning a new language, I quickly bonded with students from different universities.

Our classes were filled with engaging topics surrounding politics, dating, and education, and I spent a lot of time exploring Beijing, visiting the Forbidden City, the Great Wall or Beijing’s art district or numerous universities with the friends I made through the program. During the week-long Social Study Project in Huizhou, Anhui, I also learned how locals viewed the impact of China’s fast-growing economies on rural cities, where the future of China’s tea industry was headed, and the difference between receiving an education in the city and in the countryside.

Overall, I absolutely loved my time abroad, and I consider it my best decision at Rice – it allowed me to interact with native Chinese people of all educational, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds, exposed me to the reality of living and working in China, and allowed me to make long-lasting friendships across the globe.

I am so happy I went abroad, and I hope you take that chance too. Would love to chat if you’re having hesitations about studying abroad, considering a petition program, or are just simply interested!


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