Mao is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
The opportunity to study abroad has always been on my college to do checklist. Especially, the study abroad programs offered at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. I have always thought about study abroad but was never expecting to go so soon as a sophomore. How did it all start? A fortune cookie from Gorecki Dining, "Stop waiting. Buy that ticket and take a trip". I took it into deep considerations but as the next day emails about openings for second round applications was sent out, I was filled with excitement to apply. I not only felt that it was the right moment to go abroad but to go to China would have meant a lot for me. To finally get the opportunity to walk on the Great Wall of China was one of the reasons why I chose the China Abroad Program. However, the main reason was because I wanted to be able to experience something not just new to me but that would be worth more to who I am, a Hmong American woman.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your program that made a lasting impression.
In America, we have this thing where we call it our bubble. It is the space where we get to relax in comfort, be ourselves, and do not want people to intrude. In China, this bubble does not exist though. It is not only because in China it was always busy and crowded with the overpopulation, but because the people are very approachable and friendly. And so, besides standing next to a person face to face or having a random person sit right in front of you sharing the same table, many of the Chinese would often come ask to take pictures with you. Sometimes they would not even ask but take a picture behind your back just because you are a foreigner. It can be quite exhausting when you take pictures one after another, or it can be hilarious on the different techniques that the Chinese would try just take a picture of foreigners. Here in America, we wouldn't want to take pictures of foreigners but of celebrities and stars. It was quite a cultural experience and shock for me yet I can understand because in America it is diverse and we get our personal space.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My experience abroad has been the best semester and greatest achievement in college. No words can fully express my experience. I have never seen such incredible historical sites and relics, breath taking scenery, overpopulated cities, various rich cultures, delicious foods, and altogether done so much traveling in my entire life. China is a tremendously huge country that to go and explore every corner and space is impossible. I have been and seen so many places that I thought I have seen it all. However, it has only been a small portion of China that I have gone to and more still in hopes to go. Not to mention if it was not for my director and his wife and my fellow peers, I would have not experience such a great trip. I got to meet such unique individuals that I would have never thought about getting to know them or even see around on campus. They are my second family.
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?
Study abroad has definitely opened me to explore more about myself. The fact that I was away for three and a half months half way around the world, it was a challenge that I had to face and that I manage to accomplish. I even realized that I would like to continue to travel the world. Being in a place where I had the same skin color but did was not a Chinese person gave me the chance to be in a different shoe. I was frustrated but yet can say that I had the chance to face a different experience from my fellow peers while abroad. I also have become more globally aware of what is currently happening around the world and positively sustainable. Last but not least, being in the host country that I am interested in learning the language definitely improved my skills.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Firstly, to be open minded will be the best way for any individuals planning to study abroad in order to gain the best experience. Secondly, to observe and not judge the things that you will see and do. Lastly, have fun and be prepared physically and mentally.