Sometimes the best way to learn about an experience is to talk to someone who has "been there, done that". Feel free to contact the students below, who have all returned from a semester abroad with the Experience China program and are now serving as program Ambassadors on their home campuses. They are happy to help with any and all of your questions!
Ni hao! I participated in the Experience China program during the spring 2013 semester. I always knew I wanted to study abroad during college but I definitely never thought it would be in China. I expected I would travel to London, Paris or somewhere in Europe like many retail students do, but I soon realized I needed something more adventurous and challenging and ExC seemed to be the perfect fit. Living in Hangzhou, a city of 9 million, seemed intimidating at first, especially compared to the small-town Midwest, but it turned out to be the best major city in China for a program like this. After visiting many other cities and small rural areas I really grew to love Hangzhou and all its natural beauty. West Lake is right in the middle of the city and there are plenty of parks, trails, gardens and tea plantations to hang out in. It's also only a 50 minute high-speed train ride to Shanghai which we often visited for a weekend or a retail factory tour. From my study abroad experience I've learned that in order to become a well-rounded person you really need to experience life outside of your comfort zone. I love that when you have no control over your surroundings it forces you to learn something new about the place you're visiting, the people you're with, and ultimately, yourself.
One thing I learned while abroad: Always expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. Especially when traveling in another country and so far from the States, you always have to be prepared for unexpected bumps in the road. Getting lost, losing your credit card or passport, or not understanding the language are all issues you might have to deal with, but if you realize that it's part of life and part of the experience you'll enjoy yourself a lot more! Don't stress the small stuff, even though at the time it may seem like the biggest problem in the world.
One piece of advice I would give to future ExC students: Many people assume China is a scary or intimidating place, but I found that it was the complete opposite. It's a very interesting country with a completely different culture than our own, and full of great people. The most important piece of advice I can give to someone choosing to study abroad in China is to always keep an open mind. Try everything, whether it's weird food, new forms of transportation, meeting new people, traveling completely independent, or learning a new language. Make the best of every opportunity you can and leave with no regrets!
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Ni hao! My name is Anna LeVahn. I participated in the Experience China 2013 program my junior year. I signed up on a whim and I'll tell you it was the best decision I ever committed to. This trip was so beneficial to gaining life experience and understanding global business. If you're stuck in a rut traveling abroad really helps to find what you're really passionate about. You learn so much about becoming your own person.
Advice for students: Budget, budget, budget! There is so much to do abroad. Save your money for the big things. At the same time, don't be stingy. You are on a once in a lifetime trip. Don't pass up a travel opportunity. Be adventurous - the more people you meet the better time you have. Don't be afraid because of a language barrier!
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Hello there! My name is Tiana Theiss and I participated in ExC during spring 2013. I actually ended up postponing my graduation in order to participate in this study abroad program and I am happy to say that I don't regret a second of my decision! As I had previously participated in the Wisconsin in Scotland program fall 2010, I was familiar with the structure of ExC. The reason I love this program is because it gives you structured freedom. You are able to do so many things, yet you have a great support network behind you the entire time! Please, please, PLEASE don't let your financial situation hold you back from studying abroad! I too am funding my own education and understand the hardships involved with this experience. This program is almost the same as a semester's tuition and with the exchange rate; your personal expenses go a lot farther than those in Europe! This allows you a lot more money to travel and take advantage of every experience abroad!
Advice for students: The reason I chose to study abroad again is because I felt the need to 'do things right' a second time around. The first time I studied abroad in Scotland, I felt I spent too much time doing what others wanted to do rather than figuring things out for myself. So my advice to you would be to take those risks to do thing YOU want to do rather than following the crowd. Trust me, you'll learn so much more about yourself and won't regret it! Be curious and open-minded!
Start asking around now to see if your network can help you make the most of your experience abroad! Due to my preliminary work, I was able to meet up with a coworker in a previous corporate internship, who was now living in Shanghai, as well as a coworker form my future internship! You'll be surprised at how far your seven degrees of connection will take you!
Study abroad takeaway: Studying abroad in China is extremely beneficial to your career with their growing economy, especially if you're in business. I cannot express the number of times I was able to relate to my supervisor at my corporate internship this past summer when he spoke of factory visits across the globe. In China, I had the opportunity of job shadowing Li & Fung Quality Assurance Managers, in which case, we always went out to lunch together. I found this extremely beneficial to my future career as I hope to be in international business. It was an eye-opening experience as I was not fumbling with my chopsticks and learned how to behave during a business dinner abroad. This rare occasion was one I was happy to experience as a student rather than a company representative!
Just do it! You'll have the experience of a lifetime in China!
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