My name is Merrill Clerkin and I am a senior from Beverly, Massachusetts. I am majoring in Sociology and minoring in both Asian Studies and Educational Studies. I chose to be an Asian Studies minor because of my interest in Chinese culture and society through both a historical and contemporary lens. Therefore it was a clear decision for me to further cultivate my collegiate education by studying abroad to China. As a result, I spent the fall of 2012 in Shanghai, China studying at East China Normal University.
During my semester abroad I lived with a Chinese host family in the heart of Shanghai. I feel as though I would not have understood or appreciated Chinese culture as much had I lived in the bubble of the ECNU campus. My host family was amazing! I was challenged to communicate with my host family in Chinese and they were very receptive to answering questions I had regarding life in China, especially family roles and expectations both past and present as I lived with a host grandmother.
While abroad in China, I had the opportunity to explore beyond the city walls of Shanghai. I explored historical cities such as Beijing (Great Wall) and Nanjing (Nanjing Massacre by Japanese) as well as traveling north to Inner Mongolia where we stayed in Yurts with Mongols while camels roamed freely outside our tents. I also stayed with a Chinese-Russian minority village on the boarder of Siberia. My time in China was very dynamic. Living in the largest city proper in the entire world and traveling to remote minority villages was invigorating.
Although, studying in Shanghai, China was a unique experience for obvious reasons, my experience varied from other SLU students because I did a non-SLU abroad program. Unlike SLU sponsored programs, I was studying abroad with students from a variety of both domestic and international colleges. Already in a foreign place so unlike Canton, NY, I was required to meet new friends and step even further outside my comfort zone. I believe stepping outside your comfort zone and adapting to a new lifestyle so very different from your own is the most cultivating experience an individual can partake in.