Jack Breyak '20
Program: China Fall Semester
Major: Global Business
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad so I could enhance my global perspective and learn about a new culture. Initially I planned to go to Europe but further thinking led me to realize that Europe is similar to the U.S in a lot of ways. I chose China because of how unique and different it is. Besides I feared that I will not have a opportunity or reason to go to China again.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
There is not a single cultural experience that made a lasting impression in China. If I had to choose it would be the people that I met in China. We had language partners who helped us overcome the language barrier. This was so helpful, I could not thank them enough. They helped us order food, utilize public transportation, and any other things you would need when you are across the world. The language partners we had helped me adapt to the new way of life I originally thought would be impossible. The Chinese students in China made the experience tolerable and exciting because they helped me feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place. These were the same people that made leaving so difficult. China was a beautiful country but the people I met is what I will miss most.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience was great. I would recommend this program to anyone who has yet to travel abroad. This trip was organized nicely because you were a student as well as a tourist. These two things went well together. For example, I could learn something in the classroom that would be reinforced through seeing something or experiencing part of Chinese culture first-hand. I thought the classes we took were insightful and assisted us to learn more about China. The classes we took seemed practical and I enjoyed taking them. When I was a tourist I enjoyed the places we visited and took pictures wherever I went. Overall, I liked this experience enough to recommend it to anyone.
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?
My experience abroad forced me to grow personally, professionally, and academically. Personally, I had to adapt to a new culture that seemed so different I thought it was incorrect. When I first arrived, I felt culture shock and I did not enjoy the discomfort. I could have sat in my room waiting to leave but instead I made friends with Chinese students and started to adapt to their way of life. Once I adjusted to a different way of life I started enjoying myself. It wasn’t easy, but I came to realize nothing that forces you to grow or worthwhile is easily obtained.
My professional development occurred when I had to teach at a middle school in China. When the date was nearing I became nervous because my Chinese skills were very poor. I knew that I did not possess the language abilities to teach so I made up for my incapabilities with preparation. It was through preparation and repetition when I started feeling comfortable to teach. Eventually I knew I had grown professionally when I was ready to teach in another language and felt comfortable doing it. This was because I had spent enough time preparing and it was time to show off everything I had worked hard for. This experience taught me to stand up to situations where you feel inadequate. Instead of giving up and caving in to emotions, you should prepare until you feel confident in your abilities. If you appear confident and sure of your actions people will be less likely to question your authority or ability to perform.
Academically I had learned to appreciate the Chinese language. I had started to appreciate it because I was taking calligraphy and I thought Chinese characters were beautiful. I had learned more Chinese in 4 months than Spanish. I have been taking for Spanish much of High School and College. I learned that you learn language the fastest when you are forced to use the native language in everyday life. I now have an appreciation for Chinese. I am currently still self-studying the language and I am happy to have found a subject or area of study that I enjoy learning rather than studying it for its requirements or credits.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Originally, I was nervous and unsure about my decision to study abroad. I am happy I made the decision to go because I grew in ways that would not have been possible here at St. Johns. I would recommend study abroad because your global mindset changes. I realize that there are many other beautiful places to visit and live. There are many other countries out there where you will not appreciate their beauties until you visit them. U.S is great but there are places that are better in some ways and of course worse in other areas.