Two weeks have passed since the end of my study abroad program and I am in my hometown in Japan working on my online assignments, taking periodic breaks. Looking back, I can confidently say that the program was a fun and valuable learning experience. Not only was I able to study Chinese culture, history, and society on the ground, I also observed how people interact and systems operate in the country.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, using your senses to learn academic subjects is an entirely different experience. In my case, I went to museums focusing on the history of China from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries. I do not know the best way to express this but looking at the primary sources of artifacts and documents made me feel the history was “authentic”, in that it really did happened. It was not the same experience as reading about it in textbooks, and I argue it is much more fun too. Another thing I learned was how historical events and figures were portrayed from a Chinese perspective. This can be seen through many means, from textual descriptions in the museum labels and speeches from locals. Our program had the opportunity to invite three speaker guests to talk about the local festivals in Guangzhou, Confucianism and the politics in Hong Kong respectively. Different countries have different interpretations and views on a topic, and China was no exception. In the speech about Confucianism, I was surprised to hear that it was viewed as a religion since I have learned from the Chinese Philosophy class that Confucianism was a philosophical ideology.
Being different from my views, such perspectives were fresh and interesting, and they broadened my understanding on Chinese society. There is still a long way to go to fully understanding China and its people, and the program could only do so much to plan and organize field trips and activities. However, I am grateful that there was an opportunity provided to get closer to understanding it. The program has piqued my interest into studying more about China and I would definitely return.
Also, from this program, I have gotten more appreciative of things in general. There were some troublesome moments (dirty tap water and internet limited to the hotel lobby) that is not expected to happen back in home. However, because they happened, I realized the comfort and convenience that I have been taking for granted was a blessing. I would have experienced it sooner or later if I had traveled to a foreign country alone, but the study abroad – which was in Guangzhou and Hong Kong – happened to be that first experience. Along with the many wonderful moments created with my course mates, this was a memorable trip that I can reminisce about in years to come.
To anyone who is looking at my posts and is considering of attending a study abroad, I will borrow Nike’s slogan: Just Do It. It will take you on an unforgettable journey that expands your horizons and perspective on the world, and you will have something to talk about in your life experiences.