Doug on his first night in China
COLA: Tell us a bit about yourself. (Major, hometown, interests, etc.)
Doug Cusack: My names Doug Cusack, I’m from Mansfield, MA, and studying international business and economics. I’m very fascinated by East Asian culture, particularly Chinese, and Chinese language.
COLA: Why did you choose Chengdu?
Doug: As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to. My top priority for picking a college was the study abroad programs at the school. I always figured I’d be studying in Shanghai or Beijing, but UNH has a fantastic exchange program with Chengdu, a city I had never even heard of before coming to UNH, and I’m so glad I took the opportunity.
COLA: What are some of the benefits of the program in Chengdu?
Doug: Chengdu is one of the western most cities in China before reaching vast mountainous and rural areas. It’s known as the “gateway to the west” in China. Cities on the east coast like Beijing and Shanghai are very internationally oriented and most people speak English. Thus, most Chinese people in these cities want to practice their English with you. In Chengdu, English speakers are far less common, so if you want to go to a place where you’ll really be able to practice your Chinese, Chengdu is the place.
Doug with family in Chengdu
COLA: How was it being immersed in a new language?
Doug: It is amazing. Being in an area where you’re forced to speak a different language is the best way to learn the language.
COLA: What courses did you study while in Chengdu? Did these classes help you
understand the country or learn the language better? How?
Doug: I took 3 Chinese language classes, taught by Chinese people, and one international economics class. We also took a Chinese culture class, where they took us on field trips and taught us other activities such as ancient paper cutting techniques and the martial art of taiqi. I could not think of a better way to learn about Chinese language and culture.
COLA: How did you finance your semester in Chengdu? (How did you fund your time abroad?)
Doug: I saved money by spending a semester in China. Everything in China is cheaper for multiple reasons. A large meal costs an equivalent of $2, and room and board was also cheaper. Along with that, the president of Chengdu University granted us Americans $500 (3000 kuai) scholarships.
Doug and friends in Chengdu
COLA: What was the adjustment process like when you arrived in Chengdu? What advice could you share with other students?
Doug: Adjusting to life in Chengdu was surprisingly easy. The first few weeks were crazy and eye opening, and we quickly realized that we did not know as much Chinese as we thought… However, the university has a Chinese student volunteer program and set us up with some students that we became great friends with and helped us with everything – from setting up our phones to taking us out to eat.
COLA: What will be your best memory of being in China?
Doug: My best memory is the spicy food and the people I met. The food in Chengdu is the best in the world – if you are a spicy food person (which I definitely am) and I met people from all over the world that I still talk to everyday. I am so grateful for this experience because of that.