Mai Houa Yang
Mai Houa is an Ambassador who studied abroad in China
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, because it was such an amazing opportunity for me to immerse myself into a different culture. I chose to study aboard because I wanted to gain a global perspective and I wanted to experience going to school in a different country as well as a different education system than what I am use to in the United States. Studying abroad would allow me to appreciate myself more and the diversity of people and cultures in the world. I chose China because the culture in many aspects (food, language, government, society etc,) is very different from the United States and I knew it would allow me to learn and grow the most. I wanted to go somewhere that would get me out of my comfort zone and to challenge my perspectives and China was the perfect place. I was also very interested in learning about the history of China, the society and the language.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A cultural experience during the trip was when we taught English to kids in grades K-9 at a middle school in a small area of China. It was definitely eye opening to see how committed the kids were to their education and learning English. All of the kids were very engaged and excited when we were teaching them. The education system is very different in China, it is very intense and critical for all students to do well in school. I will always remember this because I taught a group of first graders and eighth graders, they were very energetic and many of the students came up to us asking for our autographs. Another cultural experience that I enjoyed was going to the international cultural festival at Southwest. It is very similar to the festival of cultures that we have at CSBSJU. There were different foods and performances from all around the world, I thought it was just amazing that Southwest university also encourages their students to showcase their cultural diversity.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall experience was amazing and I am so glad that I chose to study abroad, because I was hesitant on it and I did not apply until the second round. I have experienced so many new things while I was aboard that I know I would not experience here in the states. I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. The classes were informative and interesting and the professors were great because they were passionate about teaching. I ate some really good food, learned Chinese and learned how to ride the train! Exploring was exciting and fun because you get to venture out into a new environment. Of course there will be highs and lows while you’re aboard and honestly there were some times when I just questioned a lot of things and felt so out of place but that didn’t stop me from learning and reflecting on my experiences or appreciating my time in China. There were challenges such as the language barrier, culture shock etc. but it made the experience all the better, it was an everyday learning experience. I really enjoyed the excursions because we visited so many beautiful locations, my favorite place we visited was the Yunnan province! I do not regret studying aboard and if I could study abroad again, I would.
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?
The benefits of studying aboard are getting the experience of a different culture, there is so much to see in this world and going abroad will give you new perspectives that will stick with you forever. You get to eat different foods, meet different people, and see new places. You learn to become more open-minded and appreciative of all the differences in this world. Anywhere you go outside of the United States, there will be different norms and lifestyles and you’re going to question it but remember to always stay open-minded because you’re in a completely new part of the world where people engage differently. You gain many different skills such as independence, flexibility, adaptability, communication and intellectual curiosity. Personally, I have become more independent, understanding and adaptable because China was a whole new environment for me. I have never been in a place with such a different society and somewhere that I did not understand the language. I was able to adapt to living in the fast-paced environment of China and learning about their ways of living. Academically I was able to learn new things by taking different classes such as Chinese language, Business in Asia and History. Learning the language was fun and very helpful with everyday interactions. I have never taken a business class before and I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot from that class. Professionally, I have met some amazing people who I know I will be able to connect with if I ever choose to return to China. As well as gaining a global perspective on how different factors affect and shape China.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you have the opportunity to study aboard then do it, it will honestly be one of the most rewarding things you do in your college career. When you choose a program, you get to choose what type of experience you want and what you want to gain from it. Yes, it is about the fun but it’s also about growing as a person. I believe that students should choose a program that will challenge them and will allow them to gain new perspectives. Be open-minded and self-aware when you are abroad, this will help you to reflect and learn more about a different culture. Make a travel diary or a vlog, anything that documents your time abroad! You can go back and look at all the things you did and even reflect on your experiences.