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
Heleen Ettes (English major) from Utrecht University, the Netherlands; Junyan Gao (Psychology major) from Soochow University, China; Luke Hale (Chemistry major) from Murdoch University (Australia); Laurenz Rosemann (Mechanical Engineering major) from Hamburg University, Germany; Joon Hyung (Brad) Kim (Business Administration major) from Korea University Business School, South Korea; and Yuchen (Winters) Huo (Finance major) from Lancaster University, United Kingdom
Q) What do you like about Binghamton University thus far?
Laurenz “I like having several assignments
spread throughout the semester. In most of the universities in Germany,
you’d have only one unbelievably difficult final exam at the end of the
Luke “I agree. Having bits of everything
from daily assignments to quizzes mixed throughout the semester actually
gives me time to study and really grasp what I’m learning.”
Heleen & Junyan “I like that the school offers a lot of extra academic help, such as giving extra credits and curves.”
Q) What special items did you
bring from your home country besides necessities? Or what didn’t you
bring from your home country that you regret you didn’t?
I didn’t know Binghamton gets that much cold and snow
Heleen, Luke & Brad “I should have brought more winter clothes. I didn’t know Binghamton gets that much cold and snow.”
Brad “I brought some presents from Korea. I’d give them to my friends here in Binghamton before I leave after the semester is over.”
Heleen “I didn’t think to bring Dutch
snacks with me at first. After I arrived here, my parents brought me
some Dutch cookies and peanut butter, which are my favorite food.”
Q) What is one piece of advice that you would give to prospective Binghamton-bound study abroad students?
If you don’t have a car, think twice before you decide to live off-campus!
Laurenz “Get as many tips as you can from
other students who studied abroad. I regret that I didn’t spend enough
time preparing for my study abroad. I just packed my clothes and shoes a
couple of days before I departed Germany, but now I realize that’s not a
good way to prepare your study abroad…”
Junyan, Luke & Winters “If you don’t have a
car, you should think twice before you decide to live off-campus. There
are buses running everywhere, but I think having a car would be much
more convenient if you live off-campus.”
Laurenz “Oh, and you should attend the
General Interest Meetings if you are interested in anything. Even if
you’re not too much into, let’s say, sports, movies, or whatever, you
will build networks with your peers anyhow, and I think joining a
student association is one of the biggest benefits you will get as a
Q) Would you recommend your American
friends to study abroad? If yes, then what do you think they will
benefit the most from studying abroad based on your own experience?
Now I know how to cook myself and get up early for class myself
Brad & Winters “You will “really” get to
experience different cultures once you leave your home country. The U.S.
does attract a lot of people from various places around the world, but
actually immersing yourself into another country is completely different
from just seeing international people walking around you.”
Junyan“You will experience different
educational setting, too. It can be challenging but you will really
appreciate the experience in the end. You will have better understanding
of how the American educational system is different from others.”
Luke “Also, you will gain much independence. I
am 19 years old and have lived with my parents my entire life. But now I
know how to cook myself and get up early for class myself :).”
***Thank you Heleen, Junyan, Luke, Laurenz, Brad, and Winters for
having such an interesting and engaging interview with us! We hope you
all will enjoy your semester in Binghamton University and have every
possible positive experience you can have while you stay in the United
“What’s up?” “Um… I… don’t have anything
special, just going to class and having to do some homework and… I mean
there is nothing special or important that I feel I should share with
you, you know…?”
If you have had a conversation like the one
above with a student on campus, you probably met an exchange student who
is unfamiliar with the American notion of “What’s up?”, not necessarily
asking you what really you’ve been up to, but just saying hello.
In the middle of the fourth week of the semester, we had the opportunity to interview six of the exchange students attending Binghamton University for the fall 2015 term: Heleen Ettes (English major) from Utrecht University, the Netherlands; Junyan Gao (Psychology major) from Soochow University, China; Luke Hale (Chemistry major) from Murdoch University, Australia; Laurenz Rosemann (Mechanical Engineering major) from Hamburg University, Germany; Joon Hyung (Brad) Kim (Business Administration major) from Korea University Business School, South Korea; and Yuchen (Winters) Huo (Finance major) from Lancaster University, United Kingdom
Q) What made you decide to study in the United States?
I really love being in this melting pot!
engineering major, I wanted to learn how the engineering programs are
taught in the U.S. and what kinds of research are being conducted
specifically in Binghamton University.”
Brad “I wanted to
improve my English language skills and thought spending a semester in
the U.S. would provide me with lots of opportunities which I wouldn’t be
able to have if I stayed in Korea. I actually plan to stay in the U.S.
after I finish my undergraduate study.”
Winters “As a
Chinese living in the U.K., I wanted to experience something different.
Studying abroad in the U.S., I thought, would let me experience
Luke “I just
wanted to taste the American culture. In Australia, the majority of
people speak only English but here, you can actually communicate with
others even if you speak another language.”
always dreamed of coming to the U.S. to experience the life in a
multicultural setting. I really love being in this melting pot!”
Q) What were your initial perceptions of the U.S. and Binghamton? How have these changed after spending a few weeks here?
Heleen & Luke “I
thought the U.S. would be similar to my home country, but little things
in daily life like using a differen metric system, reading temperature
in Fahrenheit, and driving on the right side are difficult to adjust
Laurenz “I thought
the U.S. would be a completely different world from Germany; however, I
find a lot more similarities than differences here, which surprise me
Junyan “The bus system is really different from that in China. I never expected to wait at least 30 minutes for a bus.”
Brad & Winters
“I thought the entire New York State would be like New York City, and
realized I was certainly wrong as soon as I arrived in Binghamton.”
Q) What is one thing you would want your American friends to know about your home country?
I don’t have a kangaroo in my backyard…
definitely – I noticed that American students typically eat unhealthy,
greasy food and snacks. I’d like to introduce to them the healthy food
and snacks that are easily found in my hometown in China.”
Heleen “Unlike the usual perception that the Netherlands is static and monotonous, it has a lot of dynamics and diversity. “
Luke “I don’t have
a kangaroo in my backyard, or eat it for every dinner… I need to get
out of my town and drive a long way to get to a restaurant that actually
sells dishes that have it.”
Laurenz “Germans are not boring people. Actually, we can be fun people.”
Brad “I want to introduce K-pop to my friends here, though, everyone I’ve met seemed to know and like K-pop already.”
Winters “I’d like to introduce the unique British drinking culture to my American friends.”
Q) Do you notice any difference in the way English is spoken here?
How should I answer back to questions like “How are you?” or “What’s up?”
Winters “Yes, I do. The American accent sounds awkward to me.”
Luke, Winters & Heleen “The spellings of some words are hard to remember, like color.”
Laurenz “I often
don’t understand small talks. The conversation I’d have with a cashier
at a supermarket is really different from the one I’d have with my
classmates. I sometimes don’t understand the subject of the conversation
they’d bring up, so I’d just stand there and listen, though, I don’t
understand what’s really going on.”
Junyan “A lot of Americans I’ve met spoke too fast…”
Luke & Winters
“Americans pronounce “r” too heavily, you know what I mean? It’s not
that I don’t pronounce “r” at all – I surely do recognize that “r” is
there – but I don’t stress it as much as Americans do.”
should I answer back to questions like “How are you?” or “What’s up?” Am
I obligated to really give an answer to these questions…? Or are these
even questions? It’s like a stranger walks up to me and asks “Hi, how
are you?” and then just walks away without even looking back to me. I
still haven’t figured out how to react to these questions or greetings
or whatever these are…”
As a Chinese immigrant and Marketing major and Korean minor, I naturally became interested in working in the market involving Asian-American populations. In particular, South Korea attracted my attention as the perfect place in which I would like to work in the future because its market has something that was unknown to me but made me curious to learn what that is. Besides my career goal as a marketing professional in South Korea, I personally love the Korean culture.
My interest in studying abroad in South Korea, however, collided with my plan on finishing my undergraduate study a year earlier. If I were to study abroad for a full semester, then I thought I would not be able to squeeze in all my Korean language and culture classes which I had to take to fulfill the Korea minor requirements. In the midst of figuring out how to fit study abroad in my busy academic schedule, I found this awesome Binghamton summer international program in Hanyang University in Seoul, which would allow me take the required classes for my minor over four weeks during the summer! In so doing, I enrolled in the Hanyang international summer program and not only learned Korean language in depth but also experienced all different aspects of the
I remember the first week in Seoul, I had difficulty communicating with Korean people I met due to my lack of Korean speaking skills. There were times when I even felt embarrassed, but over time, I learned how to communicate via body language. Gradually, I realized that as long as I don’t give up, I would eventually adapt to whatever environment in which I am thrown. During the time I stayed in South Korea, I made a lot of Korean and non-Korean friends who helped me understand the rich Korean culture in depth. Though it took me some time to adjust myself to the new environment, I no doubt had the most amazing time in Seoul and am still totally in love with the country and its culture! I was also surprised at how I could relate my Chinese American culture to the Korean culture and my experience as a youth immigrant in the United States to the study abroad experience in South Korea.
I badly wanted to stay there longer and now, I wish to go back and
possibly start my career there. I could not be more thankful that I
received the Myers Family Scholarship, which ultimately enabled me to
have this wonderful opportunity to study abroad in South Korea. With the
scholarship funds, I was able to further pursue my study in Korean
language and business in South Korea. After I returned to Binghamton, my
career goal has been reaffirmed; I will visit the country again next
summer and find an internship opportunity which will eventually help me
land on a job in South Korea.
Fei Huang, Undergraduate Student in the School of Management, Binghamton University