Karen Phillips '21

Program: China Fall Semester

Major: Mathematics

Minor: Computer Science

Student Athlete: Soccer


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

Part of the reason I chose College of Saint Benedict was for their study abroad programs. I knew going into college that I wanted to go abroad and wanted a school that would support that. I chose to go to China because I wanted to be pushed. I had already been to Europe multiple times and I wanted to go somewhere with completely different culture, language and food than I was use to. China wasn't somewhere I saw myself going alone and so I figured this would be a great opportunity.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

Our school in China was surrounded by a ton of great restaurants and one of our favorites was a noodle place. We went there the first night we arrived and continued to go back. Every time we went the same couple was working. The man started to get use to us coming at least twice a week and started to help us with our Chinese. On arrival we had to use our phones to order, but by the time we left he had taught us enough to order anything off the menu. He didn't speak a word of English. This was such a great example of how helpful the Chinese are and how much they want foreigners to love their culture.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My experience abroad was trans-formative. I didn't take the hardest classes I've ever had to take, but I felt that I learned a lot about the real world. I became a lot more self reliant and gained confidence in my ability to figure things out. I realized how easy it is to make friends if you smile and put yourself out there. I started to understand that things that initially make you uncomfortable are what you come to love in the long run. I found out that no matter where you go there will be good people who genuinely want to know about your culture and share their own.

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 opens your eyes to life outside of the US. Although these differences can sometimes be drastic you start to gain an understanding that there is more than one way to approach problems, such as government. Learning how other systems work and experiencing them are two different things. Once you have lived in a communist country you begin to understand why they haven't abandoned it. American education and news are all slightly biased. We believe that we have the right system. After you experience another system you may not support it but you will sympathize more. Understanding and respecting other governments has become a huge global problem and if study abroad can help you recognize that, then you will be far better off in any path you take in life.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

Don't be afraid to talk to people. Everyone is curious about foreigners. We naturally like to learn about others and what they experience regularly. People will appreciate if you are the first to reach out or introduce yourself. Often the courage to say "hi" is all that stops people from becoming friends.