“…every city has its own story to tell.”

Study abroad in China provided me many invaluable experiences while giving me the opportunity to learn about an interesting culture. I participated in the program called Urban and Cultural Explorations in China in which we studied urbanization in five Chinese cities: Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Zhenjiang and Shanghai.

We usually discussed the country of China as a whole and may sometimes perceive that every part of China looks similar. However, the program opened my perspective to the uniqueness and beauty of each city in China. Whether it’s the hustling noises and extreme crowd in Shanghai or the rural neighborhoods and boarding schools in Zhenjiang or the traditional colonies in Nanjing or the natural beauty in Suzhou, every city has its own story to tell. I had the opportunity to meet many knowledgeable and humble people who helped through the process of getting accustomed to the culture as well as make me comfortable through a bit of culture shock. I was able to explore the rapid advancements of the nation through visiting urban planning museums in each city. I also learned more about the culture and traditions through networking with host families, institutions, Chinese students and universities.

The local culture in China is extremely interesting as the little towns or the cities look different from places in America. The local street food to bargaining with local vendors to visiting beautiful temples, monuments and palaces, the country offered me very unique experiences. One challenge I faced during the program was the language barrier which can be mediated if we put an effort to learn common phrases, seek help from local volunteers in translation and be more interested in learning about social cues and signals in their culture. The most rewarding part was the fact that I was learning about a country’s culture and urbanization while experiencing the country itself. I was able to retain all that information in-person which is something that is unforgettable and is engrained into memory.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to go through this journey with the help of IAAD scholarship that enhanced my cultural knowledge and global awareness. I would encourage all the students to participate in a study abroad program since this is the opportunity to learn internationally and learn in-person. One gets to experience the country that is being studied and achieve a better understanding of foreign culture and globalization.

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In addition, this is the opportunity to meet new people and share each others’ experiences and make great connections. Study abroad is a life changing opportunity as you get to learn more about yourself. Through my study abroad experience I was able to make the decision of pursuing global studies minor! Hence, study abroad can also show us possible paths we can take in near future.

Tandrila Dutta studied on the Urban and Cultural Explorations in China during summer 2017.

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