Casey is an Ambassador who did an internship in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
My original plan for the summer was to conduct chemistry research either at St. Benedict or another university in the US when I heard about this program. Although I didn't know much on it and I never had any intentions of traveling to China in any near future I decided to apply. When I was accepted into the program I knew I had to accept. I have always dreamed of traveling and doing what I love, but never realized I could actually make it happen. There couldn't have been a better opportunity than getting to be a part of research in such a mysterious country as China was to me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Driving in China is nothing like it is in the United States. They may drive on the same side of the road, but there are absolutely no rules. I remember one of the first things I noticed when I arrived was the amount of constant sound out on the street. It is impossible to count to five without hearing multiple horns blaring. I came to realize that the horns are not used as a sign of anger or frustration like they often are in the US, but as a warning. With no rules on the road, there are a lot of warnings. I truly got to experience this on a van ride up Golden Blade Gorge. Another SJU student and I, along with some of our Chinese friends paid for a ride on an intensely curvy road up this mountain. First of this van was made to fit maximum people and looked like it was about to fall apart. With no seat belts or hand holds we began our journey. Instead of driving slowly around hairpin turns to avoid oncoming traffic, our driver would accelerate around the turns while blaring his horn to warn other potential drivers. Meanwhile we would be sliding back in forth in the backseat desperate to find a handhold. It was an experience like no other. It easily topped any rollercoaster I have ever been on and I will never forget it.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
China was amazing. It was an opportunity to become completely immersed in a different culture. It is a much more independent abroad program than most offered at CSB/SJU and that is part of what made it so unique. It forces you to begin to learn the language and customs of China with out even realizing it. Before I knew it I felt like I belonged there and never wanted to return. It was an amazing experience that tested personal limits and created everlasting friendships and memories.
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?
Spending my whole life in Minnesota I sometimes forget how big the world is and how something that seems so significant to me here is really nothing in the long run. Studying abroad helps put everything into perspective. It has helped me academically by forcing me to think outside the box to solve different problems that occur. I can use this improved skill when it comes to class work and problems. Professionally there is nothing better than connections and that's what going abroad gets you. You make friendships with people all over the world that can last a lifetime.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
When choosing where to go abroad I would advise to choose somewhere you may not know a lot about. It will seem daunting and unknown at first, but you have so much to gain from it. You will come back with experiences that others cannot begin to imagine because they don't know or understand the culture you came back from. It is truly something that everybody should experience if given the opportunity.