PERSPECTIVES - Steven Haines
Studying abroad is more than just an experience to me; it has become a major part of my life, so much so that I decided to move back to China to graduate with a degree in International Affairs and pursue a career in Asia. It has not only allowed me to walk away with great friends, stories, and travels, it has also allowed me to have a vision for my life, something that I believe I never could have received by staying put in America.
Living and studying abroad has blessed me with so many opportunities. It is nearly impossible to explain all of the things that I have learned and experienced over the past 13 months so instead Iíll just give some sort of a timeline. Before moving to China, I lived in Taipei, Taiwan for three months in the National Taiwan Normal University Graduate School Dorms with Taiwanese graduate students. There I was given a scholarship by Dr. Hugh Shapiro to study Mandarin intensively. It was an incredible experience that allowed me to make tons of local friends and travel virtually everywhere in Taiwan excluding the east coast.
I moved to Chengdu in August right after the program in Taiwan ended. There, I moved into a Chinese home-stay where I still live today. The woman that I moved in with is amazing, she really is my Chinese mom and she is the main reason why Iím moving back to Chengdu instead of going directly to Shanghai to finish studying. She was widowed just one year before I moved in so I think that we were both a huge joy to each other. Besides her, I have lots Chinese aunts and uncles living in Chengdu that we get to hang out with often. They tend to spoil me to death.
China opened up a whole new world of culture and travel. Besides the main cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Xiían,) I also had the opportunity to travel outside of the mainland to places like Philippines, riding jeeps though Manila; shopping and eating myself stupid in Hong Kong; Macau, where I lost about $30 trying to try my luck in Majiang while sipping on a Portuguese beer. Staying in dirty hostels in Bangkok and eating amazing Thai street food and afterwards lying in a hammock for a week in the southern beach islands in Thailand; Malaysia, where I bummed around Kuala Lumpur; surfing and riding a mountain bike though rice paddies in Bali, Indonesia, and my favorite, being blown away at the craziness of Katmandu, Nepal and taking a long trek though the Himalayas. Iíve already made plans to travel to North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Japan where I hope to gain an even broader perspective on the world we live in and the people that inhabit it.
I think that it is the most valuable learning experience you can have, studying languages and cultures. But itís not play while studying abroad; last year I was taking 18 credit semesters going to class around 6 hours a day with 2-3 hours of homework attached to it and obtained a high gpa in both the fall and the spring. Yes, itís sad to leave loved ones and the comforts of home, but the reward is worth the sacrifice.
--Steven Haines, Senior, International Affairs