The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity: International students abroad

June 29th, 2012

Reflections on Race and Ethnicity

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Haoyang Yan. It is not that difficult to pronounce my first name “Haoyang”, whose pronunciation is just the same as that of “how” and “young”. I am now a Junior at the University of Iowa, majoring in Economics and Psychology.  After I finished my sophomore year, I went to Italy for a month in the summer with CIMBA Program.  I can tell without any hesitation, that, I have never cherished and lived my life to such a full extent as I did in that month.  This one-month rewarding experience will always be treasured in my heart.

I was born and grew up in Canton, China’s third largest city, near Hong Kong. Brought up in an open-minded atmosphere, I have been longing to study in the United States and have cherished a little music dream. Fortunately, my parents usually support my ideas and in 2010, I came to the University of Iowa and it was my first time, ever, to go abroad. I would regard myself as a pure international student, as I never left my home country and even did not have many conversations with foreigners before. The period of transitions was not as hard as I thought, but indeed, homesickness, loneliness and academic pressure would strike on me every now and then. However, the friendliness of people and embrace of culture diversity here helped me to adapt to the new environment even more quickly. And because of this, I am prepared more readily to engage in another culture abroad.

When I was a freshman, the idea of studying abroad really seemed odd to me because I thought that I was already abroad in the United States, enjoying the abundant academic resources. Even though I have a childhood dream to visit Italy, I suppressed my enthusiasm and convinced myself to stick to my graduation plan and budget. Nonetheless, I realized that nothing could quench my yearning to study abroad, especially after learning Italian for one year and a half. In fact, if you do some research and get advice from people of experience, it is possible to find a program that fits your interest as well as your college & career plans.

To your amaze, the international students probably have some unique strength speaking of study abroad. During the pre-departure orientations held by CIMBA Program and Study Abroad Office, the staff taught us packing skills and necessary living skills abroad. Those are all what I have experienced already. Although it may be a different case in Italy, I have a general idea and more confidence to deal with that. That is, I can transit to the new life style more smoothly and save my time to explore the culture. Moreover, when there were miscommunications during the trips, I did not really panic or felt embarrassed. Having undergone similar situations in America, I knew that there were culture differences and language barriers but based on my experience, most people would be willing to help me despite the fact that they looked very confused. Also, English is forever a very useful tool so the acquaintance of English made me feel very secure.

A weekend getaway in Venice
During this one month, thanks to the optimized planning of CIMBA Program, I have accomplished six credits and visited lots of places, such as Milan, Turin, Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Vienna and several small towns near campus. For Global Economics class, we took a company trip, got a tram ride and a package of train-shaped pasta. Being in the European environment, it is much easier to study the EU economics. For Contexts and Concepts of Western Music, we went to several concerts and theatres. I also made my journey full of music by visiting Milan Conservatory, Cremona for the most precious violins, La Scala Theatre for operas and Vienna for all the music historical traces. No words can describe my feelings when I was immersed in the music legacy from thousands of years ago. 

When a CIMBA staff asked me: “What part of studying abroad do you like best?” I answered: “ Everything!” This may sound unbelievable but trust me, when you are back from abroad, you will feel the same way! It will not only become one of the happiest reminiscences in your life, but will also bring about the intrinsic motivation for you to fulfill the dreams!


Haoyang Yan