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Mark Sonkin, SJU '10 Shares China Study Abroad Experiences

One of the best decisions I have made in my life is choosing to study abroad in China. I have no doubt that the experiences I had, people I met and things I learned have greatly improved my life!

My name is Mark Sonkin and I am a senior at Saint John’s University. I had the pleasure of studying abroad for my entire junior year. During fall 2008 I studied abroad through CSB/SJU in Beibei, China. Then during spring 2009 I studied abroad with the Alliance for Global Education program in Shanghai. Both programs had their distinct benefits.

I loved being a part of the CSB/SJU program in Beibei because we were so embraced by the students at Southwest University, Chinese students as well as other international students studying there. We were able to quickly make great friends that shared our interests in China. Another distinct benefit of the CSB/SJU program in China was the amount of traveling we got to do. We were constantly visiting different Chinese cities and getting to learn all about the long history of the incredible country. There were also many opportunities to volunteer teaching English to Chinese students and it is so valuable to have been able to get that hands-on experience. The time in China flew by and before I knew it the fall semester in China was coming to an end. Fortunately, I had been accepted into another study abroad program and was able to stay in China for an additional semester.

The second program I studied through was in Shanghai, the business capital of China. I was fortunate enough to study at one of the best universities in China, Fudan University. One of my favorite things about the Alliance for Global Education program is their strong concentration on language. I never thought that I could make so much progress with my Mandarin in such a short period of time but the Alliance program more than exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be happier! Another one of the great benefits that the Alliance program offers is housing. I never expected to have such a nice living situation while on a study abroad program. Not only did I have my own room and bathroom but I also had a Chinese roommate who I got to practice my Mandarin Chinese with every day!

I am so glad that I was able to spend so much time studying in China and getting to explore the country, its people and its culture. My favorite experiences came during the time between my study abroad programs. When my fall program ended in December I had almost two months to travel through China by myself before my study abroad with the Alliance program in Shanghai began. During these two months I made numerous Chinese friends as well as other foreigners traveling through China. Since I was traveling alone I was able to learn a great deal about myself and I got to accomplish things that I never thought I could do. I would not give up my experiences in China for anything!

I hope to return someday soon and I recommend anyone to visit this wonderful country if they have the chance!

If anyone has questions about study abroad programs or external scholarships for study abroad programs I am here to help. Please feel free to contact me via email.