When I was 18 months old, I was adopted from China. Growing up with Caucasian parents in a small Iowa town, where diversity was slight, to say the least, was a little weird for me. I rarely got to meet anyone who looked like me, and I think I could count on one hand the number of people I ever went to school with who were people of color. At times it felt awkward to never acknowledge that I looked different than everyone else. Still, my mom always pushed me to stay close to my culture, and never created any confusion with my identity. I took French throughout high school, and even though that is more my focus linguistically, I knew that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn about countries in the Asia Pacific.
I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for this virtual course. I knew it wouldn’t be a traditional study abroad experience, but I was more than ready for whatever was to come. Over the course of only three weeks, I was able to talk firsthand with a variety of business experts from companies like Pfizer and DHL Express. They detailed what a day in their life looked like and answered any questions my class had. We also got to meet with professors who taught abroad to learn how business differs in other countries as opposed to here in the United States. My favorite part, however, was the cultural activities. Even though we didn’t get to be there in person, my class got to embark on live tours of the Sydney Opera House and Gardens by the Bay. We also got to take a cooking class, where we made classic New Zealand foods: meat pies and lamingtons.
"This course introduced me to so many successful people who also looked like me, and that kind of representation is so encouraging."
I never really had any role models growing up who were Asian, and who understood the unique perspective I had in the world. This course introduced me to so many successful people who also looked like me, and that kind of representation is so encouraging. I feel less alone in my academic and career journeys. My class also got to meet with some inspiring women, which is another one of my identities that is important to me as a woman in a more male-dominated field. All in all, this experience was an amazing learning opportunity all around. I gained more than just the face value of an “international business” class. I learned to feel more confident in my identities as something to be celebrated, and something that I am proud to be different for. I encourage anyone who is hesitant to push the envelope and step outside your comfort zone. If you are on the fence about studying abroad, let this be the sign you’ve been looking for. Even if the course is fully virtual, like mine was, you will get to experience such a unique opportunity that no one will ever be able to take away from you.
Julia Saul, a University of Iowa business student and a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient, participated in Introduction to Global Business: Asia Pacific during the summer of 2021.
The Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year program. The scholarships are intended to support the diversification of students who study abroad. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students for use on our diversity web pages or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students. Open letters are especially helpful as they reach the broadest audience. All Diversity Ambassadors will be invited to share their experiences abroad with prospective students from underrepresented groups on campus through outreach events.
Up to ten (10), $1,000 Diversity Ambassador Scholarships will be awarded for the Spring and Fall semesters/Academic Year; up to ten (10), $1,000 Diversity Ambassador Scholarships will be awarded for Summer and Winter sessions.