Studying Abroad: Valuable Life Lessons

What is the best way to prepare for the “real world”? Is it through memorizing a book? With PowerPoint presentations? Case studies?

Well, there is one way that I personally found to prepare me for life, which trumps all —studying abroad.

When the opportunity to study abroad in China arose at my university I was hesitant to apply. It was a costly investment and I didn’t know anyone going on the trip. But I wanted to try something new and felt the lessons I’d learn while traveling would be priceless.

So, I proceeded to cram three weeks of stuff into one tiny suitcase and embark on a 15-hour flight to China. I arrived in a country where I was quickly immersed in a new language and to be honest, I was nervous.

While I was in China, I studied for two weeks in Dalian. I had the opportunity to take business classes (taught by my professors) with Chinese college students. In addition to all that I learned in class, I was exposed to a new culture, new food and new ideals. We toured businesses, the stock exchange, and many other influential places in the city. We were able to experience first-hand what Chinese life was like.

I can’t tell if that tiger is smiling or growling– either way, it was such a cool experience!

After our two weeks were over in Dalian, we traveled to Beijing and Shanghai for sightseeing. I climbed about a mile of the non-reconstructed part of the Great Wall of China, and even zip-lined down part of it. I went to a zoo and pet a tiger (my mother flipped when she saw the picture) and was lifted in the air by an elephant. I visited palaces, the Olympic stadium, the Imperial City and even went up in the Shanghai TV tower which has glass floors. (crazy!)

The sightseeing made the trip that much more memorable, but the knowledge and cultural appreciation I gained was invaluable. I now feel that I am much more culturally conscious and can be more open-minded than I was before.

This is a life skill that cannot be taught in a classroom. You can only learn so much out of a book.  I think you have to experience things first hand.

Have you studied abroad?  If you could study abroad, where would you travel?

— Allison Sheridan, Guest Blogger

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