Sheng is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I choose to study abroad in China because as a Hmong person, I have found out that my ancestors were from China. I really wanted to learn more and to go to China to be able to seek out other Hmong people who are still there. Besides my heritage seeking, I really like the Chinese culture and language. China has one of the oldest civilizations in the world and to be able to go study in its beautiful country and see, touch, hear, feel, and taste everything is just incredible.
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, so when it came down to picking a program I knew that I wanted to visit an Asian country. My top three choices were India, China, and Japan. Considering the cost of each program, they were all a fair amount, but the China program came to me as the most affordable. Also, I choose China because from meeting up with previous students who study abroad in China, it seemed like they had a ton a fun and really came together as a group. I really wanted that with the group of students I was going with and there wasn't a time when I regretted it. With the Bennies and Johnnies I went to China with, during and coming back, we have become the closest of friends.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
During my trip in China, there was one in particular that happened during one of our excursions that made a lasting impression. I am Hmong and my ancestors were from China and were called Miao. We were visiting an ethnic/minority park and came across the Miao Village section of the park. I was really hoping to find a Hmong Miao in the village. Walking around the park asking if anyone spoke Hmong, with no replies I was really disappointed. Until one lady final said she was Hmong. My heart started to flutter and I started to get really excited. She was the first Hmong Miao I have met and seen in China. She even spoke Hmong! I have met other Miao, but they either couldn't speak the language or spoke in a different dialect. Me, along with other Hmong CSBSJU students was so amazed and happy to have met this Hmong Miao. This experienced had made a huge lasting impression on me and who I am.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience was amazing. By studying abroad I have learned so much about the Chinese people and of my own. I have met people in China who I will never forget. Also, the great relationships I had created with the Bennies and Johnnies and faculty member. It was my pleasure to have traveled all around China with them. The taste of the delicious foods that I have eaten can never be replaced with anything made in the U.S. Sometimes there aren't words that can explain all the feelings I had in China, but for sure my experience abroad is irreplaceable.
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?
Studying abroad is a great opportunities to create social network from all around the world. This is one of the greatest benefits a student can get while studying abroad. It is a great benefit for after college, one can reach out to those networks to obtain jobs. Other benefits of spending a semester abroad are really getting out of one's comfort zone and having knowledge of other cultures. Getting out of one's comfort zone in the U.S. is not the same as getting out of one's comfort zone in another country. I went to China not knowing how to speak the language and feeling lost all the time, but towards the end of the trip, I was able to have simple conversations in Mandarin Chinese. I have some Chinese friends back on campus where I would sometimes speak to them in Chinese. It is a lot of fun. Having knowledge of other cultures other than my own makes me as an individual more open-minded. I am able to see past a person's appearance and truly see whom that person really is inside. I am also able to acknowledge others of the Chinese culture and explain to people how it is disrespectful when eating to stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice. Having an understanding of another culture will help better myself as a person in the working field where there are a diverse number of people.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
One main advice I can give them is to really embrace ambiguity. Considering or planning on study abroad can be a scary thing. One just needs to really know deep inside that he or she is prepared to face new and challenging things. Also be able to put themselves out there to better further their experience and gain new knowledge. Another advice would be to learn about the country they are considering on studying abroad. It doesn't make sense to unknowingly travel to a foreign country without doing some research first. They need to know how to prepare themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.