Jennifer is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
There were a handful of reasons why I wanted to study abroad. I chose to study abroad because I knew it would positively push me in the direction of obtaining skills where I will use academically and professionally in life. I anticipated that the biggest impact of my experience abroad was going to be the people who I would create long-lasting relationships with, whether they were the native people or the people studying abroad with me. There were two main reasons why I wanted to study abroad in China. First, being born and raised in the United States from Hmong immigrant parents have made me realize how much I have assimilated to the western culture. Unable to barely write and speak in Hmong, I have lost my native language and culture already. To reconnect with my Hmong culture, I wanted to start from the beginning of where my ancestors were from, which is China. Stepping on the same soil as my ancestors could possibly bridge me to finding my Hmong roots. Secondly, I wanted to relive the struggles my parent's faced while immigrating and living in America. My parents and grandparents left their homeland to come to America; a land they knew little of, nor did not speak or understand the language. They continued to vigorously fight with the struggles they faced in an unfamiliar country, because they wanted to better their children's education. I will never understand nor experience what my parents went through. However, I realize that going to China, would be a small step to grasping onto my parent's battle in the language and culture barriers. I believed that studying abroad in China would finally make me open my eyes and recognize how much my parents and grandparents have done for me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Being a Miao descendant, I was able to explore deep into the rice fields of China and relive what my ancestors experienced. During national holiday, eight other Hmong students and I embarked on a journey to Zhenning, Guizhou. A journey that we will forever remember. On this week, we visited a Miao family. Even though they did not know who we were at all, they happily opened up their home to us. Without hesitation, they generously offered their hospitality by serving us the best home-cooked dishes. I will never forget how genuine this family was. Although there was a huge language barrier, with only hand gestures and smiles, we were still able to communicate with each other.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Having lived in China for the past semester, it is so difficult to sum it up in just one paragraph. All I can say is, it was the best four months of my life and I would not have changed it for anything. Being able to live in the international building, I met the most amazing people from all over the world. Not only did I learn about Chinese culture and language, I also learned about cultures from: Thailand, South Korea, Egypt and many more!
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?
There are a number of benefits of spending a semester abroad. First, it offered me a chance to learn outside of the classroom and provided me with life-long experiences that I would not be able to learn while sitting in a classroom. For example, I was forced to learn a new language quickly due to my surrounding. I could not speak English to the residents who sold fresh vegetables on the streets or to the taxi drivers. Personally, I have grown more confident as a person. I am not afraid to speak up or ask for help. I have also obtained skills such as: cross-cultural communication skills, flexibility, and the ability to quickly adapt that will help me professionally.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I would say, "Go for it!" Don't let anything hold you back from a once in a lifetime opportunity that you might one day regret