We recently interviewed our Alumni Ambassador, Amanda, about her experience on the Summer China study abroad program with International Business Seminars. Amanda is an accountancy student at Northern Illinois University. She is extremely involved and she is always finding ways to learn, explore and make herself more marketable in her career.
See what Amanda had to say about her experience and read the important advice she has to offer to future students!
Why did you choose your IBS seminar vs any other option?
I chose IBS over any other option because it was the most visible. I did not even know how the Study Abroad structure worked before I signed up, I just knew that I had always wanted to go to China and that was an option. I would choose IBS over any other option now, because of the amount of non-tourist activities we were allowed to attend while on our trip that aided in our cultural understanding.
IBS organized a home-visit in Beijing with a woman whose family had owned a family business out of their home for many generations in the Hutongs. This is not something we would have been able to do if we were just visiting as tourists with our friends. They also picked tour guides for both cities that were open to having lengthy discussions with individual students during times when they were not tour-guiding.
If you had 60 seconds to convince a friend to study abroad, what would you say?
If I had 60 seconds to convince someone to study abroad, I would ask them “why not?” Generally, people mention funding. I would then point out to them that when they graduate, are working 40+ hours per week, and have all the money they want in their bank account but no time to travel, they may regret not taking advantage of such a reasonably priced opportunity. Not only is the trip reasonably priced for the quality of the seminar, but it is also much less likely that you’ll have the time to complete such an adventure once real life hits (jobs, marriages, kids, etc.)
What did you learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience abroad taught me as much about myself and why I perceive the world and myself the way I do as it did about China and Chinese culture. It is a really humbling experience to make the choice to put yourself in a position in which you are traveling with a group of Americans you have never met in a country you have never visited, especially one that speaks a language that not many people on your seminar can speak fluently. It caused me to remove many stereotypes about China, the Chinese, and the Chinese Americans I know and also understand why America and Americans have the stereotypes they do.
If you could go back to one place on your seminar, where would that be and why?
I hope to go with IBS to Vietnam and Thailand (SE Asia Seminar) before I graduate because I feel that it will round out my Asia experience. I think that if I was able to now visit SE Asia, I would understand even more about my China Seminar in addition to experiencing not one, but two additional countries.
Being able to travel to multiple cities and countries, what travel advice do you have for future students?
For students visiting multiple cities/countries during their trip, I will repeat what students already are hearing and say to PACK LIGHT. I felt I packed light by having only 7 outfits for my 11 days (1 business formal, 2 business casual, 2 smart casual, 2 casual) but was quite embarrassed when a friend of mine had to help me carry my luggage around the train station between cities.
If at all possible, only take a carry-on bag. Plan to wash your clothes by hand (pending you do not like the laundry prices you come across) by packing Polyester-blends and other easy-to-dry materials. Avoid cotton, which takes forever to dry (especially if you are visiting a humid area, such as Beijing in May!). Also, I don’t recommend taking a tightly-packed bag, as you may find yourself accumulating items you’d like to take home even if you are like me and aren’t crazy about shopping.
I recommend planning to spend only 2/3 of your money because you never know what might come up. Since I visited 2 cities (Shanghai and Beijing), I planned to spend 1/3 of my allowance in each city and found myself discovering a couple extra tours and shows I wanted to take part in and still had enough to eat at the Airport on the way home and save some Yuan for memories.
What are the company visits like? Did you have a favorite visit and what did you learn?
The company visits I assumed would be the driest part of the trip, some possibly even boring (sorry, just being honest!) BUT I was never bored, and found myself telling a friend every day that I was surprised about how much I genuinely enjoyed each visit and how interesting they actually were.
Most of the presenters are familiar with presenting to business students and know what sort of information to present that will tie in with the classes we were taking (being a semester 1 transfer student, this was one of the first places in the “real world” I actually heard a lot of the vocabulary and concepts used I have been learning in school) and are more than happy to answer questions we had. A handful of our presenters were American, and it allowed us the opportunity to ask questions about things we were curious about without the fear that we would offend a Chinese-native.
What do you miss the most about being abroad?
The thing I miss the most about being abroad, is how much I enjoyed the culture. I find myself daydreaming about just taking an evening walk down the streets of the Hutongs, surrounded by red lanterns and dancing to Katy Perry with people who I cannot even communicate verbally with.
The second thing I miss is the friends I made. I don’t often feel attached to people I have only known for a couple weeks and assumed I wouldn’t during this trip, but this is not some regular old “summer camp” trip. I would be surprised if anyone came back without meeting at least one or two people who they really found a forever friend in.
Do you still have questions or want to connect with Amanda personally? Email Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.