The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Study Abroad: Exchange Program at China’s United International College


One of the biggest worries students have about studying abroad is cost. Well, as Shane Schmid (WSU ’19) so aptly put it, “Nothing is impossible unless you make it so.”

Schmid participated in WSU’s exchange program and attended United International College (UIC) in Zhuhai, China. WSU’s exchange programs, with locations in Germany, Japan, Poland, and Turkey, are an affordable alternative to studying abroad. Students continue to pay WSU’s tuition and fees, but pay room and board to the host institution.

Only paying room and board at the international location makes exchange programs much cheaper. Schmid only paid $533 for a semester’s worth of housing at UIC, cheaper than both WSU housing ($3,330-$4,955 per semester) and housing at study abroad locations that aren’t part of the exchange program.

Unless a student is trying to buy a house or a car while abroad, Schmid said everything in China was much cheaper than in the United States. However, a well thought out budget is still necessary. A budget was the most important thing Schmid did to prepare, but also the thing he wishes he had been better prepared for.

China, Schmid says, is a bigger challenge than Europe. The language barrier is significant. The younger generation often knew some English, but this was rare in the older generation. Schmid relied on translation apps and the information learned in the practical Chinese class he took there.

According to Schmid, the experience was “a confirmation of my skills to adapt,” and one-hundred percent worth it despite the communication difficulties.

Reading Chinese presented problems as well. Schmid often relied on pictures when ordering off menus because he couldn’t read the names or descriptions. This worked well until Schmid encountered a durian pizza masquerading as a cheese pizza. Durian, Schmid says, is the smelliest fruit in the world.

However, overall the Chinese cuisine was enjoyable, but nothing like the Americanized version. Everything was extremely fresh and the smaller portions were always perfectly filling.

Schmid is the first WSU student in a few years to study in China. No friends or classmates accompanied him. However, this wasn’t an issue at all. Schmid had a very helpful roommate, “He was a buddy I could talk to about anything. His help was invaluable the entire time I was there.”

Close contact with the locals also enhanced Schmid’s experience. “Having local friends helps. Not a local tour guide, local friends. A tour guide just shows you all the hot spots. You want local friends that can show you more than just tourist traps. They can show you how the culture really is.”

Schmid traveled to the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong, the latter being his favorite. Experiencing Chinese city culture was one of the best parts of his trip.

In return, Schmid tried to share a little bit of American culture. He cooked a Thanksgiving meal for his friends and for the international programs staff at UIC, none of whom had ever eaten stuffing or pumpkin pie before. Cooking a turkey is fairly difficult in general, but it proved especially difficult for Schmid as the only oven he could find big enough was a microwave oven.

Schmid’s experience in China is a perfect example of one of the most important study abroad characteristics: sharing of cultures. Schmid went to a location very different from life in the United States. However, when meeting for an interview, he was found playing Chinese checkers and scrolling through a Chinese brand phone.

Schmid learned much both in and out of class. He grew as a person through the trials he overcame and the amazing memories he made. In return, Schmid shared a little bit of American culture with those he met abroad. The story isn’t over yet, either, as Schmid plans to return to China as an intern after he graduates.

For more information on exchange programs please visit or stop by the Office of International Programs in Parenzo 130.

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