Bao is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I always knew I wanted to put studying abroad in my college career. I want to experience cultural differences personally and understand where other cultures come from. One of the many reasons I chose to attend the College of St. Benedict was due to their outstanding study abroad programs. In addition, it is a great way in allowing me to overcome my challenges and discover more about myself, including the enhancement of my strengths and bettering my weaknesses. I specially chose China because I have been studying the Chinese language for almost three years, starting in high school and continuing to do so in college. With my interest in the Chinese language and culture, I wanted to put my Chinese language in use and learn beyond the classroom setting.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Our excursion trips to GuiZhou and Yunnan have brought each individual to embrace the wonderful ethnic groups of China, with Miao/Hmong included. GuiZhou opened our eyes to the life and beauty of China's countryside. I have met many people during this trip that has taught me quite a bit about my life and myself, though one particular person made a long-lasing impression. We met a 13-year old girl, Xiao Tang Tang, who grew up in the countryside with her parents and little brother. She was a gorgeous talented young girl who only dreamed of her family being happy. One question we asked her was what was one thing she really wish she could have at the moment. It wasn't money she wanted, but a computer. Her life compared to mine is so much different in so many ways. She'd walk an hour to school, help her mom farm, clean the house, cook for her family, and watched over her little brother everyday. As a minority in America, I have to work hard to get the things I want, but Xiao Tang Tang had to work even harder (even though she was the majority). She definitely opened my eyes to my future, my career, and my family. In the future, I want to help those individuals with unique stories like hers and bring upon what I learn to my family and friends.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with one step," says Lao Tzi, a philosopher of ancient China and Father of Taoism. This was the same exact quote I began with in my study abroad application. With studying the Chinese language for quite awhile, I have also surrounded myself around and made friends with the Chinese teachers and international students at St. John's University and College of St. Benedict. From them, I have learned a lot about their culture and tradition. Those are only a few of the many reasons why I chose China for my study abroad experience. I would have to say that I am really happy to have made that decision. Words cannot express the eye-opening experience I had in China during that 4-month period. I have learned countless new things and met many friends throughout this trip. If I had the chance to redo my study abroad experience again, I would not change a thing. I am glad to have made the decision of choosing College of Saint Benedict and enrolled in their Fall 2013 China study abroad program. I am glad to have spent my time in China with a wonderful study abroad group and have learned a whole lot from each and every one of them. I have learned more about the Chinese culture, enhanced in their language, met many new friends, and discovered so much more about myself. Studying abroad is something I would definitely recommend for other students!
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
In comparison of a one-month program, this semester long program impacted my personal growth greatly because of the unique space in which I learned, experienced, and spent exploring. This semester long program has allowed me to experience the Chinese culture firsthand and expand my perspective on the world. China was definitely something different from what I am used to, but I have learned to adapt to the different environments. It has allowed me to grow more independently and mature by giving me the opportunity to be by myself and to make my own decisions. As a future graduate, I also want to go back to China to educate healthy living and observe their living/eating style, because they are known for longevity.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Those who are considering studying abroad, do it! You will not regret it. It is a long life experience, in which you will learn countless new things and build many relationships. Those who are planning to study abroad, be open-minded and flexible. You will encounter many cultural differences, but be open-minded into learning their culture and don't be afraid to ask for help. Be flexible too, because things will not always go as planned.