So, Where are You From?
One of my favorite parts about studying abroad so far has been the friends that I have been able to meet. Coming to Shanghai, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought that I would be in class with all Americans, with some Chinese classmates here and there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My classes are more diverse than I could have ever expected. In my Chinese class of only 15 people, there are 11 different nationalities represented (Iraq, Canada, United States, South Korea, China, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and France). At first, I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and was unsure how to interact with such a diverse group of people, who all speak different languages and come from such different backgrounds. Over time, it has become a true honor to get to know my classmates from all over the world. I have been able to learn so much about their culture and what their lives are like back in their home countries. I have come to realize that while many of the foreigners I have crossed paths with are very different than I am, we have many things in common that bring us together in ways that I didn’t ever think were possible.
I have a class called Issues in Contemporary Chinese Society that discusses issues in Chinese society that have an impact on the people and their culture. This class, like my Chinese class is also very diverse. Each class is discussion based and covers a specific topic for that week. The professor is very intentional about asking people from all different cultures how their home country views each topic. In an academic setting, it has been an awesome opportunity to be able to explore how different cultures view certain cultural issues.
I was hesitant to move beyond my group of American friends at first, but quickly realized that it would be virtually impossible not to. I found myself asking the question “那是哪国人?” much more than I thought I would have to ask people where they were from. Some students are here only for a semester or for the year, while some will be here for their undergraduate and even graduate studies.
Every week I have the opportunity to be involved in the East China Normal University “Global Business Project” a cooperative between the Chinese school of Business and the Global China Program for international students. We have the opportunity to interact with students from all over the world to accomplish projects, hear from keynote speakers, and build relationships.
The best experience I have had with my international friends was on my trip to Beijing with the Global China Program. There had to have been at least 40 different nationalities represented. Being able to make memories and see some of the most beautiful sights in the world with people from all over the world is an opportunity I wouldn’t give up for anything.
Matthew M. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in Shanghai, China. He is currently a junior studying Global Business at Cedarville University.