Breanna is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China.
Minor: Gender studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I wanted to gain an international experience by living in a country other than my home country. I wanted to learn more about the Chinese culture not by just reading the books but by actually living it and experiencing it first hand. I studied Chinese Mandarin in high school for 3 years and I've always wanted to go to China and use the language that I learned. I am Hmong and the Hmong has a history in China, There are words in Hmong that are so similar to Chinese words. There are also cultural things that Chinese culture practices that the Hmong culture also practice. I wanted to find my own identity and history in China.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
There was a restaurant that my friends and I always liked to eat at. The couple who owned the restaurant were always smiling and made us feel welcomed. We always took a while to decide what we wanted to order but they were always really patient with us. There was one particular time when the restaurant was really busy and we wanted to eat there. The couple didn't turn us away even though there were no more tables. They ended up clearing one of their tables where they put their food and vegetables that they used for us to sit and eat. We were so surprised and thankful that they would even do that for us. We build such a special connection to them even though we didn't know Chinese that well. We understood and appreciated their hospitality and caring nature. That was one of the things i will never forget.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I had an amazing experience studying broad in China. There were also moments that were difficult and challenging but overall I really enjoy so much of what I experienced in China. I learned how different the Chinese view life and all sorts of things as well as how they live. China is still developing in many ways but they have also developed already too. They have so much history that the U.S. doesn't have so that really makes China unique.
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?
Based on my experiences abroad, I believe that everyone should study abroad or at least travel abroad at least once in their lives, especially some where very different than your home country. You will learn about a whole new culture that you never even know existed until you go there to experience it first hand. Going to China as a student was also very eye opening because I got to see how students lived and learn. I compared it to how we learn in the U.S. and how our school systems were different. Studying abroad has allowed me to become more independent and open minded to the world around me. Being able to live in China, miles away from home I've appreciated my family, friends and country a lot more. In China, the students aren't allowed to voice their opinions so I have appreciated my own freedom of speech and find my voice to be able to voice my opinion. Academically, I have seen how busy students in China are. They have packed schedules, having classes on Saturday and Sunday as well. Also many of the students know how to read and write in English. Not only do they study in their native language but they also study English and can communicate with us very well. I have also gotten better with my Chinese both written, reading and speaking. Chinese Mandarin is a hard language to learn so I don't feel fluent in Mandarin but I have learned more and what is necessary to survive in China. Professionally I have learned to be more flexible. In China, things can be unexpected so you have to be patient and ready for whatever they decide. Culturally they do things differently.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I would just advise students to be open minded and take in everything you can while you are there. You will see things that can very different than what you are familiar with so it's important to be understanding and open to the things that you run into. When you are studying abroad, there are so many opportunities that you can take advantage of and I think it's great to do as much as you can do while you are abroad that you wouldn't be able to do in the U.S. Different countries offer so many other things that you can be part of and learn. There are so any places to see so make sure you travel as much as you can while you are there.