July 14, 2010
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Rock student seizes opportunities in China
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Christopher Becker, a Slippery Rock University accounting major from Mars, Pa., said he sees China as a land of opportunity. And he wants a first-hand look. Becker leaves Aug. 16 for a study-abroad program at Shanghai International Studies University, where he will immerse himself in language studies and experience many firsts.
Becker said he prepared for his two semesters in China by enrolling in SRU's Asia Studies Program, which included three Chinese language classes.
"I am really excited to go, especially to see some of the popular sites around China and make some new friends at the school," he said. "Being responsible for myself and not really having any other people there that I know will teach me how to live on my own. The prospect of my mom not doing my laundry and cooking my meals is scary, though."
Aside from individual benefits, there is a larger economic imperative for spending a year on the other side of the world. China, with 1 billion people, has become an economic powerhouse, and Becker said he aspires to a career in international relations or business.
"China is obviously a growing part of the world economically," he said. "The experience will present even more opportunities for me when I graduate. Any advantage I can gain would be good."
Shanghai International Studies University is a comprehensive institution that specializes in foreign language education. It has 6,000 undergraduates, 1,400 graduate students and 1,200 international students. Founded in 1949 as Shanghai Russian College, it became Shanghai International Studies University in 1994. The school employs 500 faculty.
Becker said many aspects of the college experience that Americans take for granted wouldn't be revealed until he arrives at the university. He knows he will be assigned an international roommate but won't meet him or receive information about where he is from until he gets there. He has not been briefed on curfews, travel privileges or even how the school handles daily meals.
"I'm not sure about meals of as right now," he said with a laugh.
Classes begin Sept. 1. He said Chinese professors would teach the classes. They will use some English for translation but will instruct primarily in Chinese. "I expect it to be difficult at first, but I am still interested in the language. I can understand and write Chinese a little, so we'll see how far I can go with it."
Becker said the year abroad came about in part because he likes traveling and experiencing different cultures. His mother is from Germany, so he has been to Europe many times. "I believe that living in China for 11 months is the best way to speak the language fluently," he said. "My sister, who's in high school, had taken a similar trip before me and when my teacher talked about the opportunity in class, I knew I wanted to do it too."
Becker will be mostly in the school's language program but will receive a few credits that count toward his Asian studies minor at SRU.
"I am nervous about leaving behind some of my friends here at Slippery Rock University, as well as my family," he said. "I'm going to be a senior, so many of my friends will graduate before I get back. I still have another year left after China. With my family, it's never good missing stuff like holidays and birthdays, but they're happy I am going."
Becker said he really doesn't know what to expect from such a dramatically different environment, but he is excited to absorb as much of it as possible. "I like learning about different cultures and what different people are like," he said, "so I know there were a lot of 'firsts.' Hopefully, after a month or so, I will be used to their way of life."
Becker said he plans to visit The Great Wall and hopes to see Beijing. China became a Communist country in 1949 and was closed to the West until the 1970s, so Becker said he is unsure what to expect regarding government regulations.
"I am interested to see how strict there really are and how the police interact with you," Becker said.
Becker credited SRU's Asian Studies Program for helping him to realize the cultural and economic significance of Asia. The program offers classes in Chinese, Japanese or Korean as well as classes in Asian religion, film, military traditions, politics and culture.
" I have to thank Slippery Rock University for this because they made it possible in many ways," Becker said. "First, they encouraged me to take this trip, and taught me what's available for students like myself. They helped fund my plane ticket, which was fairly expensive. They also have scholarships available for people who are studying abroad. I couldn't be more pleased with Slippery Rock's study abroad program."