This past summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. With the funds from the Myers Family Scholarship, I was able to study the Chinese language as well as the business culture of China, one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Being a Chinese-American, I was very interested in visiting the country where my parents have grown up. My family never had the money or the time to go anywhere outside of the United States, let alone halfway across the world to China. I was really excited, yet nervous, to travel to a completely different place all by myself. However, I really wanted to practice my Chinese language skills and thought, by immersing myself in this culture, I would be able to improve drastically. While my language skills did not improve much within the short 6 weeks during which I was there, I did learn something very valuable.
Being surrounded by people who looked just like me and my family, I fitted in perfectly. However, whenever someone came up to me to ask me a question, I wouldn’t be able to understand them. They would then question me, confused that someone who looked Chinese did not speak Chinese. It was very frustrating to have people laugh, mock or be downright angry at me for not being able to communicate with them when I should have been able to. In my Chinese class, I was the only Chinese person among the diverse students from all different countries around the world. A non-Chinese person was seen as smart for knowing how to speak Chinese, where as I was looked down upon because I was supposed to know.
Although it made me discouraged, my peers were able to support me and instead I am now trying to overcome negative judgments and focus on my studies. I want to continue studying the Chinese language at the remainder of my time here at Binghamton University and hopefully study abroad in China again. I have decided to minor in Chinese as well as Asian and Asian American Studies. In China, I had discovered how much of my own culture I had lost touch with growing up in the United States. It made me realize how important my culture is to my identity and question what it really means to be a Chinese-American.
I hope that I can inspire others to not only study abroad, but to explore the culture within your family as well as different ones outside. The world is a big place and there are endless discoveries to be made out there, and within yourself.
Anita Wong, Undergraduate Student in the School of Management, Binghamton University