Student: Laura Yates
School Abroad: Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE)
Location: Shanghai, China
Semester: Fall 2011
In the Fall of my Junior year at Bentley University, I was fortunate enough to have the incredible experience of studying in Shanghai for the semester. I'd been hesitant to study abroad at first - I was worried about missing my friends and family, or missing out on things happening back at school - but I'm so glad I took the chance and the leap of faith. I chose China because I'd never been before and I wanted to learn from my semester abroad. I wanted to experience full blown culture shock, I wanted to learn the language and immerse myself in the country and culture, and I wanted to grow as a result of my experience. Initially, it was difficult adjusting to the food, the population density and life on a Chinese college campus, but by the time I left, my little corner of Shanghai felt so much like my home.
One of the best parts of my experience was the friendship I developed with my roommate Hu Chen, who was a full-time student at SUFE. At first, I struggled with Chinese and she struggled with English, so our communication was very broken. By the end of the trip, we'd both learned so much from one another that we were able to have conversations about the cultural differences between our two home countries. A few weeks after I arrived in Shanghai, she took me out to dinner so we could get to know each other better. Once we arrived at the restaurant, she told me we were going to order only traditional Chinese foods - the kinds she knew Americans typically avoided. She encouraged me to try things I would never have tried on my own. In one meal, I ate duck tongue, fermented duck egg, pig's ear, cow's intestine and a variety of freshwater fishes and crustaceans from around the Shanghai region. Because Hu Chen encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, that dinner is one of my favorite memories of my time in Shanghai.
It was so hard to leave Shanghai and say goodbye to all my friends and favorite places, but the things I learned about myself there will continue to stick with me and make me who I am. I would encourage anyone considering studying abroad or traveling to step outside their comfort zone. Take every opportunity you can to learn and explore and you'll be amazed at what you experience!