Sarah is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Ask my family and friends and they will all say that I have always wanted to study abroad and to travel internationally. Even as a young child, I wanted to explore the world. My travels throughout the United States have been rewarding in that they have given me a perspective of how other Americans live. I chose to study abroad to expand this perspective to learn first hand how people in other countries and continents live.
One of the main reasons I decided to study in China was to get out of my comfort zone. I chose this study abroad program to not only learn about Chinese society, but to also experience first hand, the country and culture that millions of people call home that is so different from my own. China offered a new language, diverse views on religion, new food, and a different way of life. China was a place that would challenge me and make me think outside the box.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Over National Holiday break, a few of us traveled to Yibin, where we stayed with one of our language partner's family. They immediately welcomed us into their home and treated us like we were a part of the family. It was an amazing and eye opening experience. Other than our language partner, her family did not speak much English, which made communicating difficult. However, this gave us a chance to practice the little Chinese we knew. We also had to communicate with hand gestures and face expressions. During our three day stay, I learned how to fish without a reel and how to play Mahjong. I waitressed for the family owned restaurant and had the opportunity to try the local food. During those three days I was not just an observer, I was actually participating in the Chinese culture and way of life.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was absolutely incredible. An attraction of the China study abroad program is that students live near other international students, which allows us to get to know people from all around the world. I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with people not only from China, but also Thailand, Malawi, South Korea, Congo, Taiwan, and Russia. I also got to bond with a group of Bennies and Johnnies that I may have never have gotten the pleasure to know if it weren't for studying abroad.
Words cannot fully describe the knowledge and experience I have acquired during my time in China. During my time abroad, I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of doing. Everyday in China, a challenge presented itself. For example, you get lost even after asking for directions or there is a huge miscommunication between you and the cashier. Some days were more frustrating than others. My study abroad group and I referred to theses moments as "bad China days". With every obstacle I encountered, I learned new ways to problem solve and address those difficult situations. I began adapting to the changing circumstances and embracing new ideas. I am grateful for those challenging moments abroad because I gained life skills that will help me in the future. Traveling to China has been the craziest, but best, decision I have made. It was an adventure of a lifetime!
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?
Personally, studying abroad in China has helped me grow in my empathy for people, have a better understanding of global issues and become more independent and confident. I have become much more confident in my decision making and problem solving skills. After returning home I have found that I am not as afraid to try new things. While studying abroad, regardless of what program you choose, one will find that you learn so much more about life than you will ever learn from a textbook.
In addition, as a Global Business Leadership major, I was drawn to China. While abroad, I had the chance to enroll in a Chinese Business course. We delved into different Chinese business practices, policies, and theories, which will be very beneficial to me throughout the remainder of my Global Business Leadership studies and my future career.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
A piece of advice for students who are considering studying abroad is not to worry about not knowing any students applying for your study abroad program. Don't base your study abroad decision on where your friends are planning to go. Take the time and research what program is right for you. No matter what program you choose, you will have the opportunity to make many new friendships.
Also, while you're abroad it is important to remain open-minded. My mom's advice when I left for China was, "accept and not expect". If you expect something to taste bad, chances are it will. If you go into a situation with an open mind, you just might be surprised at how much you enjoy the experience, food, people or culture. I recommend trying new foods, activities, and doing things that you would normally not do. Just be smart about it, use common sense, and stay safe.