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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Ericka in China

Ericka Vega ’20, an International Relations Major with a minor in Mandarin Chinese, is studying at Peking University in Beijing, China

你好! My name is Ericka Vega, and I am a senior at the College majoring in International Relations and minoring in Mandarin Chinese. This fall semester I had the privilege of studying in Beijing, China at Peking University, China’s match to Harvard. I chose the China Studies Institute (CSI) program because not only could I take courses that would fulfill requirements for my major, but I could also intern for a local Beijing company.

This semester I interned at the World of Chinese Magazine, an English online and print publication about Chinese language, culture, and society. As this internship was my first foray into the media sector, I feared my work wouldn’t measure up, but all the research papers I have written for my LFC classes prepared me well. Creating and publishing weekly content on top of my other classes kept me extremely busy, but I also enjoyed the independence of writing articles about matters I truly cared about. I always felt my contributions to the magazine were valued, which made all my efforts worth it. Everyone at my office was kind and friendly, and I will definitely miss my co-workers and working for this company.  

Although I have been studying Chinese for over seven years and had visited the country once before, I still had difficulties adjusting to the culture just like everyone else. Chinese people often mistake me for being Chinese and expect I speak fluent Mandarin, so they often do not understand why I can’t give directions to the library or why I stumble ordering a simple cup of coffee. Most of the time, I laughed it off and explained my Filipino American background, but the language barrier still frustrated me. However, in these last three months, my Chinese has greatly improved, and I feel much more confident expressing myself in Mandarin.  

Moreover, Beijing is quite different from Illinois—it seems that almost every corner of the city is loud and swarmed with people. I often missed Lake Forest’s quiet campus and slower pace of life. Though, whenever I felt homesick, I knew I could fall back onto the incredible friends and teachers I have met through the CSI program. Much like Lake Forest College, the professors and staff genuinely care and want to get to know each individual student, so I felt right at home with them. I have also made life-long friends and precious memories that I will never forget. 


It is truly a humbling experience being able to learn firsthand China’s rich culture and history and study among the brightest scholars in the nation. When I return to the States, I will miss eating baozi, walking around the lake on campus, commuting on the Beijing subway, bartering prices with Chinese locals at the markets, and so much more. I want to thank my family, friends, professors, and the Ingrid H. and George L. Speros Scholarship for supporting me through this transformative semester abroad in Beijing!