My interest in studying abroad began on my first trip overseas to China. It was a week-long tour during spring break that guided me through the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Wuzhen, and Shanghai. In Beijing, I wandered through the ancient Forbidden City and walked upon the majestic Great Wall. In Shanghai, I climbed high above the glowing city in the Oriental Pearl Tower and raced along the horizon riding the Shanghai Maglev Train. This contrasting mix of old world with the new changed my entire perspective of the world and on life.
Before this trip, my perception of China was one that had been shaped and molded by television; I expected to find an old civilization, steeped in tradition and undaunted in its ways by modern Western lifestyle. Instead, what I found was a rapidly modernizing society with architecture and technology that showed all of the sensibilities of Western designs but with its own Eastern spin that kept true to its ancient culture and its people. I was amazed by this revelation yet I felt ashamed for having been so misguided and even more for how long I’d been this way.
I was 23 and had rarely been outside of California when I went alone on this life-changing trip. Up to this point, I had been toiling away at a community college, still uncertain in which direction to take my life. Afterwards, I became a more critical thinker; I was no longer satisfied with accepting information as a given without first attempting to understand it personally. I also wanted to see more of the world to continue to broaden my perspective.
Having continued my studies as a computer science student, I recognize the difficulty for science and engineering students to fit study abroad into our academic schedule. I feel the pressure and anxiety as I prepare to go abroad alone for just the second time in my life–this time a summer in Japan then a year in Korea. Still, I feel it is an important step for us–especially for those who have yet to travel abroad–to realize the impact our future contributions can make on a global scale. We should not be afraid to delay our immediate pursuit of a degree for an enriching experience that will last a lifetime. This is why I go abroad.