Ode to Studying Abroad



Saying that I like studying abroad is an understatement. Saying that I love studying abroad might even be an understatement. Studying abroad is my thing sounds about right.

I am writing this post to explain why you should go abroad and why you should convince those around you to do the same. Fortunately (unfortunately?) my college career is coming to an end a year early, but in my three years I still managed to fit two international stunts into my Finance major. Since I chose to condense my University experience I will refer to my years numerically rather than by title since this gets a bit confusing when I skip Junior Year for Senior Year.

Coming into University, I knew that I wanted to have at least one experience abroad, and I knew it was going to be China since I had a wonderful Taiwanese roommate in high school and had a chance to visit her home my senior year spring break. She inspired me to begin Mandarin classes during my first semester. The natural progression was to spend a year or a semester in China, testing to see if my career could one day lead me here. So that first winter, I applied online through The Experience Abroad Network to spend Fall of my second year in Shanghai. It ended up being cheaper than a semester at my home University and completely changed the rest of my college career.

What I Learned: 

1.  To be independent

2. To network internationally

3. To look outside the box when it comes to jobs

My sixth month stint in Shanghai exposed me to to a culture and a point of view that I would otherwise never have fully experienced at home. I had to navigate my way through the stickiness of Visas, negotiate with Shanghaiese-speaking taxi drivers, and build relationships with new friends in a foreign land.

It is hard to appreciate the difficulty of functioning in a completely foreign place. Even habits such as rolling out of bed and brushing your teeth become difficult when you cannot use the tap water. Walking to the nearest coffee shop for your morning boost is not just around the corner, it may take you miles to find a western-style place where the food and drink looks familiar. But each little daily detail teaches you not to take conveniences for granted. Being forced outside your safety zone is the only way to expand that zone to include new ideas and experiences and to ultimately grow as a person.

Yes, I am a business women. By networking, I do not only mean for business reasons. I look at networking as a personal web of friends, acquaintances, laughs, and experiences shared. Sure, this web can help you find a job, but it also is comprised of your personal advisors, comedians, and cheerleaders. My network includes people from every school I have attended, every country I have traveled to, every job I have held, and the extension of all of these plus my close friends and family. Through this web, I have gotten into schools, traveled around China, accepted jobs, and found opportunities I would otherwise never have been exposed to. Through the contacts I met in China alone, I interned with IBM, traveled to Seoul, Hong Kong, Hainan, and Chicago, and have a great hope of moving back after I graduate for a job.

Jobs are not 9-5 corporate bubbles anymore. I took my first consulting job based off my experience in China. Two of my friends I met in China are both working on startups, one in tech and one in fashion. My home university led me to believe that the best job out of school is a traditionally structured corporate job. But, from seeing all the opportunities alone in China and in Sino-US relations, I have come to see the world as more of a Build-A-Bear: there are pre-set jobs, and there are jobs that you can create for yourself.

China was my first step into the world of startups and entrepreneurship. My most recent, was to set up a FB group for all my fellow students at the LSE to connect over our passion for entrepreneurship. In two hours, there were 60 group requests. You do not need to go at the world alone.

Finding your passion can also mean building it. Do so by externalizing yourself, by pushing outside your comfort zone and abroad!



Limitations of Language

Graphics just makes lectures so much more fun! When I was teaching English in Shanghai, I would use videos just like this for a more comprehensive understanding of higher level topics. Graphics are able to convey much more than a simple textbook definition and even more than the charades I would play with my students.

The key here is the language gap. The author of this video points out that in Sicilian there is  no future tense for verbs. This makes it very difficult to make plans when you can’t communicate about the future. The same idea applies to vocabulary: if you have a poor vocabulary then you are unable to communicate a point clearly, but also you have difficulty translating the world around you for others.

For example, imagine you didn’t know the word “depressed”. You would be unable to diagnose a mental state, you would be confused about what you were feeling, and you would also be unable to communicate why you were behaving unusually. Words like “sad” or “down” just can’t convey the same point. But since you do know the word for depressed, now you can reach out for help with a single word and be understood. Also, you know that what you are feeling is relatively normal and you are one among others since you are borrowing a word imagined by another. The point I am trying to get across is that communication in general is the keystone to reaching a higher understanding of the world around you.

Language and the development of greater human understanding has enabled us to write down our thoughts, to tell the stories of our parents and grandparents, and to keep in touch from afar. I believe the study of languages is necessary to understanding humanity and to moving our species forward. Each word is a step by mankind to label the world he is surrounded by. The creation of new words is just as exciting as space exploration (ok maybe not…) because it means greater cognizance.

Examples from other languages:

  • Mamihlapinatapei is Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) for “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start”
  • Tartle is Scottish for  “the act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name”
  • Torschlusspanik is German  for “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages”
  • Ya’aburnee is Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

In English, we tend to think of a past, present, and future. However, Chinese has none of these tenses while the six-tense language Kalaw Lagaw Ya of Australia has the remote past, the recent past, the today past, the present, the today/near future and the remote future. The differences between such finer distinctions are the distance on the timeline between the temporal reference points from the present. Imagine organizing your thoughts on this timeframe. Tricky, but maybe a higher order of thinking? Now put this together with a deeper vocabulary and you are able to convey much more, succinctly.

If you haven’t watched the video above- you should!

Source: http://www.altalang.com/beyond-words/