The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Connecting the past and future

December 17th, 2014

My name is Shan Shan Huang. I am an undergraduate student with a major in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Business at the University of Iowa. One of my biggest dreams is to walk outside of my little world and experience the diverse environment and culture that is unknown to me. My decision of studying abroad was formed after seeing the study abroad posters many times during school days, so I looked it up on the website. A three week trip to study business in London caught my eye. It was a perfect location to study business for my minor. It would be a very good opportunity for me as a first generation student. I was really excited and looked forward to the chance to study abroad in London.

Shan Shan Huang in London

First, I was worried about my financial state; going abroad meant an extra cost on top of my school expenses. It also meant leaving my comfort zone and branching out into an unfamiliar environment, so I was unsure at the beginning. But as I looked more into the web page and visited the study abroad office, I found there were many alternatives available for students like me; the advisers were friendly, nice to work with and very knowledgeable on the subject. I decided to give it a try and applied for the program and the scholarships. Later, I was accepted into the program and awarded with scholarships. There are many times later, I thanked myself for making this decision to try for this once in a time valuable opportunity.

Being in a completely different country with a different culture was a shock. Even though England was an English speaking country, it was different. My first impression of London: wow, this is unbelievable; this city has the ability to connect the past and future. It seemed to me that every corner of London was telling its own history and expending its new roots. The beautiful sight had greatly reduced my worries and anxiety.

Soon my study of international finance started in this eye opening scenes of famous landmark, architecture, museums, etc. Three weeks of studying business in London was full of surprises. Learning the aspects of international business, for example like the function of currencies, currency exchange rates we studied here was astonishingly suitable when you are in a city filled with all the necessities you need to study business. Concepts seemed to be grasped easier. Doesn’t matter which part of London you were in, you would always see people speaking different languages. Almost every street has a currency exchange counter.

During the course of study, our class had visited many famous course related sites, such as the Bank of England, London’s central bank; and Lloyd’s of London, a full operating international insurance trading floor, etc. For example, during the visit to Lloyd’s of London, we were all surprised by the size of the trading floor and the professionals. Wow, they were all serious business men and women. There were even professional securities used for the trading center. By the scale of the trading floor and the attitude of the employee’s there, I believe they must have been really good at the business they were doing. By visiting these sites in conjunction with the knowledge I learned in our class, my understanding of London’s financial standing had been greatly expanded. I wouldn’t doubt why London is such a perfect place to study business after this study abroad trip in London.

If I did not decide to walk outside of my little world, I would never have known how different another place is. Especially, when you take a course while there compared to a simple tour. For sure, there are also many other parts of world waiting for us to discover and get involved. If you ask me if I will ever study abroad again, I would say yes! Study abroad was such an unforgettable experience. I would say start today, plan your study abroad plans, no matter which country, you will always end up getting something unexpected after you decide to experience something different and new.

Shan Shan Huang

Learn about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for study abroad