Ban Cai
Updated: 2014-03-14

Ban Cai.jpgName: Ban Cai                                                                                                   
Institute: East China University of Science and Technology     


My Story Abroad

Well, studying abroad is a term that can refer to a few things. It can either means going to school abroad for a specified amount of time, or attending university abroad, either for a semester, a year, or your entire college education.

There are multiple benefits to studying abroad, some of which are:
- You learn a lot about yourself, and mature a lot, because you have no parents to call up when things go wrong.
- You learn how to organize your life on your own, and need to do everything yourself (from things a simple as doing the grocery shopping to discussing accreditation issues with your instructor).
- You have to practice your open-mindedness towards other cultures.
- If you go to a non-English speaking country, you have to practice your foreign language skills.
- You get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to make friends with people from all sorts of countries (during my stay in China, my circle of permanent contacts included Malawi, Mongolia, Zambia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Sri Lanka, etc.).
- And because you have all the benefits named above, your future employer will have a strong argument in your favor.

So my study abroad experience in Shanghai, China has finally come to an end and Wow.. This may sound cliché but my experience in China was the greatest experience I have had in my entire life. It is really hard to wrap words around this entire experience, in fact I can’t. I am going to express my satisfaction in three areas that I found contributed the most. However, this will not be a sufficient explanation of what I have gained. If you are a student, and want a sufficient explanation of studying abroad, than just go do it. I promise you, it is beyond worth it.

The three main areas that have contributed are travel, relationships, and independence.

The first and probably the most mainstream contributor. Traveling abroad is what brought me to grips with the idea that studying abroad is not just about fun and games, and it is not going to be easy. You are going to be forced to be engaged with culture at a new level simply to survive. But the feeling of satisfaction and growth that comes after having made it through some of these experiences is what this experience and life is all about. Also, once you survive the hard parts like getting on the train, finding your dorm, and figuring out where you are going you get to see parts of this world that are incomparable with anything you have ever seen or known before. Whether it is the food, the statues, the buildings, the people, the culture, the clubs, (I think you get the point) it will sweep you into a whole new world.

In terms of relationships I was really lucky to live where I did. I actually got to live right in my academic building. There were two best parts of the study center. 1. My classes were just around close to my building and 2. The building was filled with students. There were two student wings. One for students studying specifically and another for students studying at a foreign language school which was also hosted in our building. On my floor, it was mostly Korean. There were maybe 13 or 14 Koreans, a couple of Malawian, Mongolian, Kazakhstan and Germany.

On the other floor there were about 18 students from all over the world that had come to China to learn the language. When I say all over the world I mean all over the world. You had people from Taiwan, Russia, France, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, Arabic, India, and Africa; literally every corner of the world. And everybody always hung out together from both floors on the weekend and got along. It was really interesting meeting people from around the world and seeing their view on things.

I have an entire new knowledge base about how different systems of government work across the world and cultural differences between nations. I have developed a new base knowledge that allows me to make insights that I never could have before. Building these relationships and learning from these people is what helped me most in developing my global perspective. Outside of learning from them I also had a blast partying with them. Which we did plenty of.

Finally the most important thing I took out of this experience was my own personal development. Now I can really see how I have personally developed. In China I was forced to toughen up and do my own chores. I had to do my own laundry, cook for myself, clean my room, and grocery shop. All those chores that your mom normally does for you. And I know a lot of people feel like you do those chores now at college, but studying abroad is one more step.

It is actually like living on your own. You don’t have a school cafeteria and not everything is within walking distance. This forced me to have to take care of myself and everything I own on my own. Now it is much easier for me to do chores and I take way better care of my personal belongings.

The most important area I felt where I grew was being my own person. If you ask my friends and family at home I am a very confident kid. However, just because you are being confident does not necessarily mean you are being yourself. The number one thing I wanted to do while studying abroad was focus on myself. I focused on myself the entire time and no one else. I did not let anybody interfere with the path that I wanted to follow.

You know what the best part about doing this was? I found the path that I wanted to follow was absolutely incredible. The path I wanted to follow was getting engaged, reading, learning, talking to natives, and simply juicing the opportunity of studying abroad for all that it is worth. Throughout this whole experience I also maintained the clearest state of mind I ever have before. One easy reason was that I left all the distractions in my life at home. Another was that I was living a healthy lifestyle and I was so engaged in what I was doing that I didn’t have time to waste on over thinking things and fogging my thoughts.

Studying abroad has given me the confidence to not only walk down the path I have always been trying to pursue, but run.

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