Cole Bodak '17

Ever since I began college at Hamilton, I knew I had to study abroad; the destination, on the other hand, was less integral. Because of my close relationship to my Korean neighbors, I have always had a passion for Asian culture and cuisine. My enthusiasm for Asia coupled with Hamilton’s world-class Chinese program lead me to pursue a Chinese major and to study abroad in China.

After previous attempts at perfecting a multitude of other foreign languages, I quickly realized that Chinese was far more challenging. The rigor, however, did not hinder my desire to master Chinese. In fact, the difficulty only further strengthened my resolve. It became apparent after just one semester of Chinese that in order to become truly proficient I had to study abroad in China. The chance to immerse myself in Chinese all day, every day, would finally allow me to drastically improve all areas of my Chinese.

Associated Colleges in China was absolutely no joke. Students describe the ACC program as being one of  — or perhaps the most — challenging and rewarding study abroad experiences. After four hours of classes, two of which were one-on-one with just a Chinese professor, I had to memorize, at minimum, 75 completely new Chinese characters. It was no surprise that my Chinese proficiency increased substantially. What was more surprising was that China quickly went from a foreign entity to somewhere that felt like home. I met countless people that challenged the way I saw the world and broadened my horizons. And despite daily hardships, ranging from arguing over the fare price with taxi drivers to eating countless questionable meals, Chinese culture only became more engrained in my mind.

As the end of ACC’s Chinese classes drew closer, it became difficult to imagine a life outside of China. The prospect of returning home for an entire summer, far removed from the fast-paced lifestyle I enjoyed in Beijing, was terrifying. I sought out any reason to continue my abroad experience in China. I was fortunate enough to receive a Fulbright and was allowed to participate in ACC’s field study program throughout rural China. I further diversified my understanding of China. Far removed from the creature comforts of Beijing, I taught rural schoolchildren English, geography, and arts. Each student was incredibly grateful for the chance to meet people from a completely different culture. At the end of the summer they even asked for our autographs, and I know I will never forget those 60 students. I know that the experiences I had and the skills I learned across China are forever engrained in my memory.

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