Before coming to the university, I knew studying abroad was an experience I wanted to go through. Being the youngest child of immigrant parents, I was grateful for the opportunities I was given to achieve my goals. I was raised to make the most out of my opportunities and to appreciate different cultures and people. Once I came to China, it was eye opening. Beijing and Shanghai were westernized and gigantic cities. Shanghai especially, had an unbelievable skyline and was so advanced. When I was there I noticed a lot of differences between the U.S. and China. China, although is one of the largest nations, it seemed disconnected from the world. China doesn’t use Google or Facebook. The government limits what its citizens get to see. WeChat is the number one app that they use, and it can do almost anything. The app can call, send money, send pictures, make reservations, and be used as a professional networking app.
I was raised to be humble and be appreciative of others, in China it was the opposite. People kept to themselves and did not really acknowledge others. In my family, we get enough food to eat and save the rest. In China, it was custom to leave your plate unfinished even if it was nearly full. When traveling with my peers, I got to know them and saw that many of them had similar backgrounds as I did. Many had immigrant parents and had to work hard to be where they were. We bonded and enjoyed each other’s company.
The biggest challenge was the language barrier. I wished I’d known more than just hello and thank you. We got lost so many times and even though it was frustrating and terrifying, finding our way back was a lot of fun because we worked together and laughed and made memories along the way.
My favorite experience would have to be in Shanghai. About five of us went to the park and played several games of basketball with the locals. Once we got there, the faces of the Chinese were priceless. They were as excited as we were to play. It was fun because the game brought us together and shared cultures and we really got to have a lot of fun.
My advice to anyone who is looking to study abroad, don’t let anything hold you back. The people you meet will be different from you and you will learn a lot from them. Difference is what is embraced while abroad because you see so many things and meet so many people. Do not be scared. Be proud of who you are and where you are from and share your stories with someone in your group or even someone from a different country.