Name: Darryl McGee
Program: Short-term program in China
Major: Business Administration
Term Abroad: Summer before junior year
During the summer 2017, I got the chance to experience China. This study tour was one of the best experiences of my life. Being one of two American students on the trip my eyes were wide open to all the new things that China had to offer. Our trip started off in Beijing and we stayed in the Xinyuan Inn which resides in Opium Pipe Lane, which was quite the experience to dive into when I first arrived. Me and my roommate Blake enjoyed the lively Bazaar right outside our hotel room door. After staying in Beijing for about 3 days we got to experience the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China, and Tiananmen Square just to name a few places we went was outstanding! From Beijing, we took a bus trip to go see the Great wall and that was probably one of the most powerful parts of the trip for me. Then our trip to the northern-eastern part of China was finished and we found ourselves on an intermediate speed train to go to Nanjing. We visited the University of Nanjing and other companies around the university and met with companies like AO Smith, Phoenix contact, and a pharmaceutical startup company named Sanhome. These companies took us on tours to display their products and explain their business plans. This information was new to me and helped me understand the practices of companies outside the continental United States.
Overall, the trip to China proved to be a great one. I met many people that I connect with on campus today that I otherwise would not have met if I did not go on the trip. I also got the chance to build a good relationship with my professor Hung-Fung who was a fantastic mentor and guide throughout the trip. After the trip was finished I got the chance to see my family in Philippines because of the proximity and the chance to see my Grandparents I rarely get to see was a large reason I went on this trip. I also visited Japan and Canada on my travels and got the chance to experience these places on my own and I believe this trip has transformed me. I now have the urge to travel as frequently as possible and try to capitalize on any and every opportunity that is available to me. I would recommend study abroad to any student who wants to experience a different culture than their own. The two-week trip to China would be a good trip to take to get your feet wet in the world of travel. You never know who you could meet and the opportunities that result from attending these types of trips.
Name: Michelle Davison
Program: Student teaching through the Education department in China
Major: Secondary Education
Term Abroad: Spring
Studying abroad in Fuxin, Liaoning, China was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Prior to my journey, I'd never been more than a few states away from Missouri. I'd never even been on a plane before!
Seeking the opportunity to broaden my horizons as an educator, I took the plunge and began signing up in October 2015 for the Fuxin Practicum II Study Abroad Program. I didn't realize then that it would be the craziest, coolest and most enlightening adventure I could ever imagine.
When I stepped off of the plane that chilly day in February 2016, it was like being a small child again. I had a renewed fascination with the world around me. Everything had to be re-learned--how to listen, read and speak; how to behave in a manner that was socially acceptable within this new culture; how to teach in a different country; how to ride my bike in city traffic--and all of it was so much fun!
It may seem like a daunting challenge to re-learn everything you've ever taken for granted, but I would never trade my experience in China for the world. I have a deeper understanding of not only the Chinese culture, but I've gained a respect for every other culture out there, including my own.
While in China, I learned a whole new set of methods and strategies for teaching. I taught, tutored, played basketball, shopped, and cooked with local ingredients. I visited many restaurants (including milk-tea shops and a cat-cafe), a hospital, a KTV, an orphanage, a church, a university and several schools. I explored other provinces and saw cities, temples, beaches, zoos, farms, malls and gardens. Even more rewarding than all of that though: I gained new friends, 13 classes of wonderful students and even a new family that calls me their "American Daughter".
If you're thinking about studying abroad, I urge you to jump in and do it! There may seem like a hundred reasons why you can't, why it's maybe not 100% practical, why it's just scary to pick up your whole life for a semester and move it to the other side of the world... but trust me, you won't regret it!
I'll leave you with a Chinese proverb that I began my journey with:
"The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life."
Name: Brett Evans
Program: Semester Exchange at ESSCA-Shanghai
Major: Finance & International Business
Term Abroad: Spring semester during senior year
Being a senior at UMSL, things were starting to get old; the monotony of daily college life was wearing on me, and I had to break out and do something unique. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to advance my knowledge and personal awareness. This year (2013), I spent my spring semester abroad in Shanghai, China. Needless to say, it was the best six months of my life.
When I’d heard about the study abroad program and went to check out what they were offering, my first thought was probably the same as everyone else’s: this costs WAY too much money. But the deeper I got into my research, the more I realized that the program actually cost me less than spending the semester in St. Louis. With China’s seriously low cost of living and abundance of jobs, the only serious expense worth mentioning was the plane ticket, ($1,100). [It is possible you may receive] enough of a scholarship to cover even that! The monthly rent of my Chinese apartment was only $300/month, the average meal was $3.00, and tuition was exactly the same as UMSL. As intimidating as it seems, cost is not that big an issue.
From day one of my trip, I was completely immersed in an entirely new culture of people who were nothing like me. The food was different, the buildings were different, and I was 10,000 miles away from anybody I knew. If you’ve never had the opportunity to live on your own, this is an extreme wake-up call; during my semester I had to apartment hunt, shop for groceries, buy a cell phone, and make travel arrangements. I had to do it all in Chinese, no less. In the beginning, it was definitely a challenge, but I met so many great people both local and foreign who gladly helped me through everything.
That’s the other thing: you will meet a TON of people. No matter what country you decide to visit, you’ll be surrounded by locals who are extremely interested in speaking with you and hearing what you have to say. I can’t even remember how many times someone came and sat by me and a restaurant, only to buy me a beer and pick up the tab for lunch. You’re an American, and that guarantees you celebrity status in whichever country you decide to step foot in. The school I attended while I was abroad was actually a French university with a branch in Shanghai; many of the students that I studied with were European, and that ended up stretching my network out even further.
The beauty of leaving the country for the first time is that you’ll make friends with people from all over the world, and you’ll have every reason to get up and visit them in the future; I’m already making plans to fly out to France and visit some of my people from the semester, and I’m considering business school at the head campus of ESSCA in Paris. It really is true that once you leave the states for the first time, you’ll catch that “bug” and want to leave again! UMSL study abroad has opportunities to put you almost ANYWHERE on the globe, so make sure that you take advantage of that and travel before you graduate; this is the perfect time to do it!
Name: Jim Garrison
Program: Student teaching through the Education department in China
Major: Secondary Education
Term Abroad: Spring
I had almost decided not to go to China for student teaching and do my semester in a local high school—my thinking being that local connections made would help me in my job search upon certification. Times have made it hard enough to find work so why should I just make it harder? But when I learned that the application I’d filed months before had been accepted, I decided this was an opportunity I couldn't’t pass up. Having never spent a significant amount of time abroad, I was somewhat anxious about what to expect but I was also excited about the prospect of trying out my teaching skills in a challenging environment. I had a little of the “if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” attitude going in.
What I experienced on beginning my teaching of tenth graders at the Fuxin Experimental Middle School went far beyond my expectations—in terms of personal and professional satisfaction as well as challenges. The students are enormously curious about “foreigners” in their midst and in many cases I was their first close encounter with one. My colleagues and I taught what were in most cases among to first oral English classes any of them had taken. As a consequence they were alternately shy and curious about trying out their speaking skills in this language they had mostly only learned to read and write. I learned early on to slow down when speaking in class and to make liberal use of visual and musical communication to help bridge the language gap. These were challenges of a different sort, surely, from what I would have faced in a local high school but they required some of the same skills—reflective self-examination, flexibility in lesson design, a lot of patience when things didn't’t follow my plan going in, and so on.
Our cooperating teacher is a professor at Shenyang Normal University. She would take the train into Fuxin, observe our lessons, and then train back to Shenyang after giving us advice and feedback. All of the members of my group from UMSL were invited to apply for teaching positions at Dr. Wang’s university as oral English teachers. The others in my group had other obligations in America but I did not and so I readily applied for work at Shenyang Normal. I had planned to stay for one academic year but ended up teaching at SYNU for two years and have returned to St. Louis in the summer of 2012. Several others who have taken part in the student-teaching abroad program have stayed or quickly returned to China to take teaching jobs either at SYNU or other schools. graphy and contemporary issues—American studies, in a nutshell. But I found that blending language skills with the content areas was not so difficult. One trick I worked on was finding out what new vocabulary the students were learning in their regular English classes and then trying to incorporate these terms into my lessons. Since I saw something like sixteen or so sections each week, all with the same lesson plan, I got fairly fluent by the end of the week. I’d give the latter sections the impression that I could almost effortlessly pick up on the Chinese equivalents for their English vocabulary terms. It was entertaining though wildly deceptive!
Name: Joe Montgomery
Program: Non-UMSL program to Shanghai, China
Major: International Business
Term Abroad: Summer and academic year of senior term
China, a land of enriched history, kung fu and mysterious Chinese symbols called characters. My journey to this land was one which was thoroughly thought out. I studied Chinese for 2 years; the next logical step was to go to China. I packed my belongings, bought more belongings and packed, and stomped my stuff into the suitcase ready to begin my journey. I sat on the plane filled with anxiousness, worry, confidence, doubt, and mixed nuts from the grazing of flight food snacks. I thought was the two years of Chinese, enough to immerse myself and live a simple life. After the 14 and a half hour flight I reached my destination. I made my way through the airport, and found myself in a taxi to go to my living quarters. I started to talk to the cab driver, the confidence I had swiftly turned to doubt. He held no restraints on the speed of which he talked, unlike the text recordings and classroom environment. The conversation lasted for 5 minutes, then we sat there in utter silence, I was afraid to utter a word in fear he would not understand, and thus was he. We at last arrived at my temporary home, which I would stay in until school started. I stepped into the house, and noticed a few major differences. My bed had no mattress, just a bamboo cover to soften the wooden frame, no refrigerator, and no central air conditioning unit. I knew then that this was going to take time to get used to. At first I just wanted to get to a hotel, and just spend the extra money, what was I to do? I didn't even have a T.V... but after consideration I decided to put on my big boy trousers, and suck it up.
Living there before school had a tremendous impact on my Chinese, it made me refuse to sit in the house, every day I went on an exploration of the city, I went to every metro station in the city, and walked around that area, a lot of which I regret going to. But none the less I used my Chinese every day, my listening ability drastically improved. Some of the locals in their area began to know me, this area in Shanghai foreigners never crossed to, so they were greatly intrigued to talk to me. As babbled my Chinese, and often tried to form sentences on the spot with the use of a dictionary. For I was forced to use Chinese, the people I talked to on an everyday basis could not speak English.
As I lived there longer, the cultural differences began to stick out. Some I liked and others I hated. The public restrooms in China are the biggest obstacle which I had to overcome. There is a glorified whole in the ground as the toilets, where there is porcelain made toilet, with no seat, that you must squat over. My first time using this was a confusing situation for me for there was no instruction manual posted on the wall for the proper form required. Chinese people are used to this and often rest in this position, as if they were sitting, for me it was a clumsy event. I sprawled my hands against the walls on both sides to keep bounce, as my muscles started to hurt, and I longed for an American toilet, and cursed the heavens for this blasphemy of this creation. But I conquered the situation and learned to cherish the dirtiest of gas station restrooms in the U.S., for they have a seat and supply toilet paper. In China, restrooms often do not supply toilet paper for you to use, they merely lend out the toilet to use, and it is your responsibility to bring your own supplies. I could rant and rave about other dislikes, but I should share the good parts. Life is substantially cheaper in China. You can eat cheap meals from 1-3 US dollars, or eat at a restaurant for slightly higher. Transportation costs are also much cheaper; you can travel the country for far less than you could in America. I went on a 42 hour train ride, I had my own bed, and the cost of the ticket was only 130 dollars. I traveled from one end of the country to the other.
After traveling and adjusting to life, I started school. I attended an American program over summer, which was much like an American program here, prepping me for the struggled that my future beheld. For fall I was to take 25 credit hours, all the credit hours was learning Chinese. This is the standard amount of Credit hours Chinese take during a semester, until junior and senior year. For I shall not wish studying 25 credit hours of Chinese upon my most hated enemies. In this program, the large majority of the students dropped out or stopped attending class and doing homework, for the pressure was too great to cover all the material and do homework required 9 hours of studying every weekday or more.
Chinese is a tricky language; it is one that takes diligence. There are two major factors that make the language hard: there are 4 tones, if the tone is wrong the word means something else. Usually you can get by with the wrong tones it just sounds weird when you talk. The other is Chinese characters; this requires a long time of writing and, memorization. If you don't constantly study you will often forget how to write a character. You cannot merely write a character 40 times and remember it your whole life, however you may remember for a month or so. The best advice I can give to anyone studying Chinese is to study till your hand hurts and your butt is sore. You need to write a tremendous amount to remember the characters.
China is a magnificent country; life there is far cheaper than the U.S. However all my foreign friends had a joke, if you stay in China for an extended period of time, you are bound to get diarrhea, but it comes with the territory of buying a 1 or 2 dollar meal. The majority of the places I ate at had a depressing yellow face for the food inspection. I personally loved my stay in China; however without a strong understanding of the language you miss out on the hidden wonders. Many Chinese beginners I have met said they feel like a small infant, they cannot express themselves, simple life task become a challenge, since the vast majority of store workers are not able to speak English. Despite this, I still suggest everybody to go to China and visit, for some of the greatest sites I have ever seen lie in the mysterious land.