Study Abroad: 'China made me independent, self-reliant'
American student Megan Lee who went to Beijing Language and Culture University tells us how the experience helped her career.
I studied at the Beijing Language and Culture University for one year between 2010 and 2011.
And it was an eye-opening experience for me in many ways!
After completing my graduation, I received a scholarship that covered costs for on-campus dormitory accommodations -- so to say the least; but moving back into a dorm was a tough transition!
I lived with a Russian girl and enjoyed getting to know both her and her culture. I realised how different the Russian culture is from that of the US!
In my Mandarin classes, I was the only American student throughout both semesters.
In the first semester I had more western international students (from France, Italy, Germany and South Africa) and the second semester had much more Asian students (from Indonesia, Japan and Kazakhstan).
It was a wonderful experience learning not only about China, but also about my peers who had come from all over the world to study there!
I also had the unique opportunity of having classmates from North Korea. The university itself comprised nearly 1/3rd of international students (approximately 10,000) so it was very interesting to have such a multi-cultural environment to learn in!
Not only were there a plethora of activities to satisfy your cultural appetite on a student-budget, but the Chinese (the youth in particular) are very welcoming of foreigners. Beijing itself was very international-friendly as it had many familiar chains and western franchises (but not so many that you forgot you were in a foreign country!).
Not only was I able to learn about cultures outside of China, I was able to have a more formal exposure and understanding of the different ethnicities that existed within China. Making Chinese friends from Lanzhou, Heilongjiang, Shanghai, Kunming, etc gave me a better picture of the different and beautiful people that comprise China's population.
The best lesson I learned from living in China was how independent and self-reliant I can be. Everyday was a little more challenging than my comfort zone, and thus more rewarding!
Although as an undergraduate, I had studied in Johannesburg, Windhoek, and Hangzhou, this was the first time I was studying at an international university.
Each of these experiences deeply impacted and changed me. While I was living in Beijing, I began working for a company that helped students come to China to pursue foreign education. Thus began a (hopefully) successful career in international education.
I now work as the study abroad director for GoOverseas.com and anticipate dedicating my life to spreading the good word of foreign education!
Dear readers, have you ever studied at an international university? What was the experience like?
Which country and university did you go to?
Was the country student-friendly? Did it have a multi-ethnic culture?
What were your greatest learnings there? How did foreign education contribute to your success and what advice would you like to share with students who aspire to study abroad?
Image: Megan Lee (right) says that the friends she made on campus are here to stay.