Last summer, Rebecca Slotkin ’14 (Verona, N.J.) traveled to Kunming in southwest China for a seven-week program that took her throughout the region, as well as Thailand and Laos. It was such an inspiring experience that she returned to study in Beijing during the fall semester.

Rebecca Slotkin ’14

Rebecca Slotkin ’14

“I had been studying Chinese for a while and I wanted to really take my language skill to the next level. The best way to do that is by immersing yourself in the culture,” says Slotkin, a double major in environmental studies and international affairs. “It’s been fascinating to meet all the different people. The culture is so interesting with its mix of ancient and recent history.”

Her host family provided a home away from home.

“Staying with a host family was vital to improving my Chinese and I loved being able to come home to a family and delicious home-cooked meals at the end of the day,” she says.

Slotkin’s academic program included four hours of Chinese study every day and a pledge to only use Chinese. Her final project was making a 25-minute movie in Chinese.

“It was quite an experience,” she says. “We had a film festival at the end of the semester where each group’s movie was screened at a real movie theater.”

Slotkin enjoys looking at the connections between international politics and the environment.  She spent the semester completing an internship at the Roots and Shoots environmental nonprofit.

“I helped the NGO prepare for its founder Jane Goodall’s visit to Beijing,” she says. “I learned a lot about event planning and how much goes into fundraising, which is especially difficult in China because of legal restrictions.”

Slotkin also took a two-week excursion exploring the Silk Road, the interlinking trade routes connecting Asia and Europe.

“This trip was incredible because it showed me how diverse China really is, geographically and culturally,” she says. “Western China near the Middle East is completely different from Beijing on the eastern coast.”

Slotkin, who hopes to live in China after she graduates, is extending her stay into spring 2013.  This time she will be living in a dorm with a Chinese roommate.

“China no longer seems so foreign or far away from the U.S., even if it is still 6,000 miles away,” she says.  “Understanding the culture and history certainly helps me put the current situation into context, but at the same time, seeing how much is within China itself, from the open rural countryside of Western China to the most crowded, squished subway in Beijing, just reminds me how much more there is to see in this world!”