Sue Yang is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I have always been inspired by my three older siblings who have pursued study abroad opportunities during their college years. They would come back from their experience abroad with many different stories of the various things they were able to do and learn from living in a different culture. With the experiences from my older siblings, I knew that I wanted to attend an institution that had a great study abroad program. Which then leads to all the courses I have taken focused on China. I wanted to be able to experience all that I have learned and see it in reality. To learn about the culture and to be a part of the culture are two separate concepts. Being able to live in the environment I am studying in will allow me to understand more of how their way of life is as I am learning about it. I was eager to learn the Chinese language so I can communicate with the people I met there. In addition, I truly wanted to study in China where I, as a Hmong-American, would look like the people around me. I wanted to see how it feels to look like the 'Majority' since I am what may be considered as a Minority in America, and how that feeling would impact my outlook on life and my own identity as an Asian person.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The Hmong are the Miao ethnic minority group of China, which is the 5th largest ethnic minority out of the 55 groups. We are people of no country, and I have only grew up knowing that my ancestors originated from China but due to wars many migrated to surrounding countries, such as Laos - which is were my parents are from. During our excursion to Yunnan, the province home to 26 of the 55 ethnic minority groups, we were able to visit the Yunnan Ethnic Minority Village Theme Park. During this trip was when I first encountered Miao people in my life! It was such an overwhelming experience to be able to meet my own people in our native homeland and actually have a conversation with them in our own dialect! I was in tears of sadness and happiness. I had struggled on my identity as being a Hmong and Miao in China throughout my whole time there, because for some reason it was hard for me to tell others I was Miao since I knew there were differences. But being able to talk this struggle out with another Hmong colleague on this trip, we both did conclude that we are Miao but through the years as many Miao moved out of China, they brought in customs from their surrounding cultures - which leads to us being Hmong, in other words: Miao from Thailand/Laos. Being able to meet Miao people at this Village was truly rewarding since not many Hmong people can say they have in their life. I left Yunnan feeling complete, that this sealed the deal for my time abroad in China. There are no words to express the feeling that overwhelmed my body when I had met the Miao people. I truly was proud of who I was and now have a clearer picture on who I am as a Hmong/Miao-American Woman and want to educate others about this experience and about the Hmong/Miao people
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Studying abroad in China has been the best experience of my life, as cliche as that sounds. I truly grew to love this country that I have grew up learning about, mainly learning negative things about. As prior China Ambassadors told us: Whatever you think of China will be completely different once you leave - and they were correct. It is hard to generalize my experience abroad because it has shaped me in so many ways, and opened my eyes as a global citizen and how I can help better impact the lives of others internationally. Not only do you learn more & firsthand about the culture you immerse yourself in abroad, you definitely learn so much more about yourself - and that was what I took out of my experience abroad. Through every interaction with a Chinese person, it was another memory added onto my experience yet also another improvement on my own self. I can only continue to say that I love China and I will definitely be going back in the future. It upsets me to hear others perceive China as this 'Big and Mean Communist Country' all due to what they take from the media, but the people of China are the most warm-hearted individuals I have encountered in my life. This overall experience has impacted my life and opened my eyes to what I want to achieve for in my future, which is to travel and help the lives of others internationally.
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?
Studying abroad for one semester really allows yourself to see the growth you went through from the moment you stepped off the plane into that foreign country until the reverse culture shock you receive when you reach home. You go through so many different experiences that pushes you to only want to experience more in this culture you are living in. Through the up and downs, everything is well worth it and if you are open-minded, you will see how every little thing does impact your experience abroad. Studying abroad has opened my eyes to my passion in working with people of different cultures. Through our teaching weekend, I loved every moment of teaching the Chinese students and being able to interact with them even if there was a language barrier. I was definitely tested on my patience during my time in China, and navigating through a country with no knowledge of the language definitely allowed me to just work with what I have. I want to travel the world now, hence the reason why I applied for the Ecuador May-term program and have been accepted! This experience opened me up to want to work internationally during my future career endeavors.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad
There is no better time to study abroad then when in college. This experience helps you grow more than you would if you just study on campus throughout your whole college career. It brings in new insights on your life and gives you a chance to see the world through a global lens. I understand financial issues may stray you al from studying abroad, and trust me that is understandable. But I've always promised myself to never let financial matters hold me back from such life changing experiences like studying abroad, that is why I pushed myself to apply for scholarships. But ultimately, just open yourself to this new environment you have placed yourself in. Indulge yourself into everything that is around you, big or small, because you learn something from it all.