Meli Musson


Stanford in Beijing, Autumn 2013-14
Major: International Relations
College year while abroad: Junior

questions and answers with Meli

Why did you choose to study abroad in China?

I love to travel but had never been to anywhere in Asia. As an international relations major, I have taken many classes about Chinese culture, economy, and politics and felt like the ideal way to learn more would be to experience life in China first hand.  I also desperately wanted to improve my Chinese and knew that time at Beijing University would be a great way to do so.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in China?

I was incredibly nervous before heading to China, I knew that it would be immensely different, but the ways it was different surprised me more often than not. I expected the most difficult changes would be to how navigate with limited Chinese, adjust to smoggy air, and eat anything besides rice (as I am a long time vegetarian). When I arrived I was shocked not by how different China was, but the fact that being in Beijing was far more similar many places than I would ever expect. Some of my expectations were met; the air quality isn’t always great and vegetarian food isn't abundant, but living on campus in dorms with other Stanford students, settling into a routine of going to class, getting Boba with friends and heading to the gym, was much more familiar than I could have ever imagined.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in China?

As anyone interested in international relations or anyone with interest in economic development or the global economy, China is a place where these topics come completely to life. Stanford Center at Beijing University is a beautiful facility that is perfect as an oasis of academia in the bustling areas of Beijing.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging part of being abroad was overcoming wariness to speak Chinese with locals. People are often flattered to meet students studying Chinese and incredibly patient but I was still very nervous to ever try to talk with strangers. I overcame my fears out of pure necessity when needing to ask for directions, but the experience made me realize how important it was to keep pushing myself to experience more in Beijing without being self-conscious. 

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was understanding the norms of personal space in China and realizing that just because people are more assertive does not mean they are rude, it is just a part of a completely different culture.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in China?

My favorite part of everyday life was traveling around campus. The PKU campus is like a mini city and it was wonderful to establish a routine walking around to different restaurants and cafeterias on campus, getting to know shopkeepers and feel as at home as on Stanford’s campus.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in China?

My most memorable experience was traveling to the Yellow Mountains as a part of our Bing trip. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in ways that are different from any other landscapes in the US.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Exceptional, unexpected, overwhelming, exhilarating, satisfying

What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in China?

The advice that I would give to anyone thinking about studying abroad in China is that if they are thinking about going they absolutely need to go. China attracts a very special group of people who are diverse and adventurous. Spending an extended amount of time in China is something many people won’t have a chance to do or experience anything similar to. It is also incredibly important to realize you don’t have to speak fluent Chinese or be a cultural expert to thrive in Beijing and have an amazing time.

If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?

If I could relive the experience of going abroad, I would work to step out of my comfort zone more quickly and more often. The 12 week program seems like a very long time but it really flies by and though I was often travelling and visiting important sites, by the end of the trip there were still places I would have loved to travel to or visit more often. In that same vein I would also have like to take fewer units to give myself more time to explore the country.

How has the experienced changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?

This experience has shown me the true value of travel and understanding different cultures and I would love to incorporate both into my future career goals, Academically being abroad makes you appreciate how small the world truly is and inspired me to want to keep up with happenings in China on all levels.

What was your favorite food you had in China?

My go to favorite food in China was the xihongshi jidan mian , tomato-egg noodle soup made with freshly pulled noodles in the Beida cafeteria.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?


What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in China?

K-pop is very popular in China and I had never heard of it before. Big Bang is a great K-pop band with music videos that are just as entertaining as their music.