Is Study Abroad Only for Brave People?

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

For the past few weeks, people have kept telling me how “brave” I am. How they could “never do what I’m doing,” and “how proud they am of me.” As if traveling to a foreign country with zero language skills is some sort of act of great courage and strength. But I’ve never thought of myself as brave. I’ve only ever thought of myself as curious.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sarahann and I’m about to embark on an adventure to Shanghai, China with the CIEE Accerlerated Chinese Language program. When I tell people this, they usually ask one of two things: a) Why is wa biology major going to China? Are you taking like Biology courses there? b) You must know Chinese then! And my answers to these questions are usually not what people are thinking. For one, I’m going almost exclusively to learn Chinese. And, to answer question B, I know absolutely zero Chinese. This is rather odd for people to hear, especially considering the fact that I am half-Chinese myself (my dad moved to the USA as a teenager). But, sadly, I know probably less than 20 words in Chinese, and most of them are colors… And, none of the credits I am taking semester will be counted towards my Biology degree, but, instead, all will be counting towards Elective or General Education requirements. But I’m glady forgoing a semester of science courses for what I’m about to learn.

I’m ready to dive head-first into a completely new culture, language, and people. I’m excited to see what’s in store, and I’m also excited for the ups AND downs. But does this automatically make me brave? I really don’t think so. To me, true bravey is sacrificing your own plessure for others. And, I, on the other hand, am taking this trip out of purely selfish motives and to surpress my ever-growing curiousity.

I want to know more about this country that I attribute half of my DNA to, the up-in-coming world superpower (as some people say). And more importantly, I want to learn to communicate with people who aren’t just like me. Why? Because I want to understand other people: the way they think, act, and believe. And how can one really do this without the most basic (yet complicated) form of communication: language? I want to do something with my life that will affect and help those who aren’t just like me–to give my time, resources, and blessings to those who actually need it. I want to do something that matters, that will affect both the here and now, but also the future. And, in order to do that, I must know how to communicate.

I don’t really know what these grand plans to help humanity will be: odds are, they won’t end up being that grand or that brave. But I’m going to keep dreaming and keep wondering about them.

So, my friends, I’m not really that brave. Yes, I’m taking a few risks and wadding a few somewhat unknown waters, but that is not what consitutes bravery in my mind. Maybe in a long time from now, I’ll be brave enough to do something hard and painful to better a cause. But for now, I’m still checking off that full-time student box on my applications and heading to a new place. And I can’t wait!

See you in 6 months, America!

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