Clare Armstrong

Beijing & Shanghai

Majors: Sociology, Chinese

Why did you choose your program? Being a Chinese major, I decided early on that in order to make the most of my studies at Notre Dame, I needed to make it to China. I worked my way through the language and culture classes on Notre Dame's campus Freshman and Sophomore years, and then when the time arose, my Chinese professor at the time recommended I look into Notre Dame in Beijing (NDIB) for the summer. I decided to enroll for the 8-week, language intensive program and in the midst of it all, I decided I wanted to stray from doing a sole Notre Dame program, so I applied to go to Shanghai, China for the fall through CIEE, a program that only 2 other Notre Dame students went on.

Favorite story: I think it's universal that students come back from abroad with numerous stories under their belt... So much so that all we want to talk about is abroad. One of my timeless stories, however, will be my time in rural Sichuan Province during China's Golden Week, a week long national holiday designed for family reunions and time off of work/school. A few of my friends and I took the initiative to plan our trip - we booked sleeper trains across the country, found hole-in-the-wall hostels, and went on a limb to hire tour guides from mere recommendations or a Google search. Surprisingly, everything worked out beautifully... We traveled via gondolin over China's rice terraces, rode in an old Jeep down the mountains of Tiger Leaping Gorge, and settled in every night with our 10 cents dumplings and roughly translated Harry Potter knock-off movies. Every hour spent traveling that week has several stories within it, and it will always be a time I look back on and smile at the pure adventure we found during Golden Week.

One piece of advice: Don't hesitate - don't worry that you're not studying where your friends are, that you don't know what your experience will look like, even that you don't know anyone going. Abroad is truly like a freshman year all over again - everyone is buzzing with excitement, ready to meet new people, and embracing the adventure that comes from having no idea what you're doing. Embrace the discomfort that comes with the unknown and I promise you won't regret it.