Rachel Mullin is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the best cultural experiences of my trip was teaching at the She-Hong school. I was given the opportunity to teach both sixth grade and kindergarten. I was there to teach them English and I did my best, but they taught me so much than I ever could have taught them. Through conversations with them both in and out of the classroom I gained a much greater understanding of what life was like for these children growing up in rural China. I learned of some of the challenges they faced, such as overwhelming familial pressure and limited resources, as well as their goals and aspirations for the future. They understood how important it was for them to receive and education and had great hopes for their future. They reminded me of just how lucky I am to receive the education I do and to have a world of opportunities open to me. I hope with my whole heart that they rise above their situations and that all of their wildest dreams come true. Not a day goes by where I don't recall one of their stories or one of their faces as I go about my day.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study abroad for a variety of reasons. First and foremost I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to get out of the warm, comfortable environment of CSB that I loved and experience something new. I wanted to expand my perspectives, challenge my values, gain a new understanding of the world, meet new people, change my outlook, and come home changed. I also choose to study abroad because it would help me with my future plans both educationally and professionally, by setting my graduate school applications apart as well as being useful for a future in international affairs.
I choose the China program because it offered exactly what I wanted. I wanted something as different as possible from what I was used to. China was perfect for this. It offered a new language, a culture with very few similarities on the surface to the US, new experiences, and a way to learn not just about China but also about cultures all over the globe through the international housing component. Going to China also allowed me to begin to learn Chinese which is a huge asset to my future goals in the Foreign Service.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I went into my study abroad experience with the motto: No Regrets. By freeing myself to be open to anything and everything I had a life changing time. Study abroad changed how I viewed the world. My world became infinitely bigger, yet also more comprehendible. I found how much I, a liberal arts college student from the Midwest, had in common with people from around the world. By finding these similarities, I gained a much better sense of what it means to be a global citizen. My study abroad experience also changed the person I am. In addition to having a different outlook on life, I have learned to get by with so much less materially. On a more personal level I have gained a much greater sense of self confidence, of self-understanding, and new goals for my future. My study abroad experience pushed me, challenged me, exasperated me, shaped me, and overall was the greatest experience of my life. I would not change a second of it for anything.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
My study abroad experience did everything I wanted it to and more. It expanded my perspectives, challenged me, changed my outlook on the world, improved my education, and changed who I am. Those aspects though I expected. My trip did far more than that. It taught me so much about myself and about what I want to do in my future. It taught me about the person I want to be and about my role in the world. Returning home from my trip I have a much greater sense of self confidence and an expanded perspective on the world. I also have an improved sense of what it means to be a global citizen. Additionally, I have a greater appreciation for the opportunities available to me and to how lucky I am to live in a free society. China was the best experience of my life and has left an indelible mark on me.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
My advice to future study abroad students is to not go into this program thinking it's going to be a four month vacation. China is not for someone looking for that. China will challenge you, it will frustrate you, but it will teach you so much. However if you can survive and thrive in China, you can make it anywhere. Regardless of what program you go on, your experience is totally what you make of it. Throw yourself into every opportunity, try things you never would picture yourself doing, and embrace the newness of everything. Get out of your comfort zone, explore Beibei, get to know the other international students, and make the absolute most of the trip because there are no second tries on it. Immerse yourself and you will gain so much more than you ever expected. Live each day there to the fullest because they will go by so much faster than you think and experience everything you can.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in China? Email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.