Student Experiences: Diandre

Why did you want to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad because I wanted to be able to experience a culture different from mine for an extended period of time. I know that this would help me expand my cultural awareness. As a business major, I know I will work with people from all over the world because business is not limited to any race or gender. Experiencing various cultures firsthand would help me be able to understand others and it would become easier to network with people I will interact with in the future.

Why did you choose your chosen destination?
Before going to China, I had been constantly hearing about their rapidly growing economy. I had also seen pictures of the country 40 years ago versus recent and I was amazed at how much they were about to build and create in such a short period of time. This is when I decided that this was the destination for me. I wanted to be a part of that rapidly growing economy. I knew it would be a great experience to learn from their work ethic. It gave me motivation to work even harder to reach my goals.

What were your accommodations like?
I lived in the international dorm on campus. I had a roommate just like how U.S. dormitories are set up. I think that this made my experience so great because it was the main part of campus so there was always so many people coming by. This is how I was able to meet the amount of people I met abroad. Also, the students in my dorm were from all over the world and most of them spoke English. We would all study together in the lounge for classes but we would also help each other practice Mandarin.

Was there a language barrier? If so, how did you get through it?
Yes, there was definitely a language barrier I had to face while being in China. Mandarin is the most spoken language in Shanghai. I went on my program knowing only how to say hello, bye and thank you. To be able to communicate, I made a bunch of friends. My friends were able to speak both English and Mandarin, and this was how I began to learn. I realized that its harder to learn a language using an app or book and never actually speaking it. My friends would quiz me or teach me random words and phrases which helped me retain the words a lot quicker. I also would practice by trying to hold conversations with them only in Mandarin. Another thing that helped was that the locals couldn’t speak English at all. To be able to order food, I would have to tell them what I wanted in Mandarin which made me challenge myself. If I wanted the food I liked and how I wanted it, I would need to be able to express that in Mandarin. These two things were a big help with getting through my language barrier.

Was it challenging to navigate throughout the country?
Transportation throughout the city of Shanghai was extremely simple. I used a bunch of ways to get around including the metro, the bus, DIDI, and an electric scooter. I used the metro the most because it was extremely reliable. They would come on time every couple of minutes and they ran all the way until 11:00pm at night. It was also super easy to read the signs as they were usually in both Mandarin and English. When my friends and I went out late nights we would use DIDI. DIDI is similar to Uber and Lyft. We would use the app and the DIDI would pick us up wherever we were. At one point I rented an electric scooter while went up to about 40km per hour. This was a super cheap and easy way to get around the city on my own.

What did you do in your free time?
I spent my free time traveling the city. I made it my goal to see as much of the city as possible. I would visit somewhere new either alone or with friends at least 4 times a week. I also cherished building relationships with the friends I made. Even if that meant just staying inside and talking about each other’s life stories. The last thing I would do in my free time was learning the history of the Chinese culture. I think that the best way to understand other people would be by understanding their history first. This would involve reading articles or making Chinese friends and having conversations about history.

Overall, how was your experience?
My experience abroad was the experience I have ever had in my life. All aspects combined made it so lifechanging for me. Learning a new language, being able to travel, the lifelong friends I made, learning more about myself, and even the cultural differences where all highlights of my experience. I would definitely recommend students to study abroad and also look a China as a possible destination.