Texas Tech University

Sarah P. - Why You Should Study Abroad

Stepping out of your comfort zone can not only be scary but also hard to do sometimes due to the fact that we can usually choose what we do or do not do. The past couple weeks I was blessed to be able to step out of my comfort zone and study abroad in China with Texas Tech's AAEC department. The trip was an overall valuable experience and there are many reasons why I would recommend anybody to do a study abroad program.

After a lengthy 15 hour flight to China from Texas I quickly realized China was nothing like I imagined it and I would truly be stepping out of my comfort zone. The first night we arrived we all went to dinner as a collective group at a local restaurant, letting us dive straight into the culture and cuisine in China. The food served had to be the hardest adaption for me as I do not eat seafood and that is one of the major consumed food group in China, not to mention I could not read the language to know what I was ordering. As day and day went by I adapted and ate foods I would never have tried in America as well as perfected my chopstick abilities. By the end of the week, I was not only willing to try more foods but I also had a greater appreciation for authentic Chinese food (which tastes nothing like Panda Express). Being able to step out of my comfort zone in this was probably the most impactful aspect of the trip. Now, back in America, I have already tried new foods here and can thank Study Abroad for pushing me to try new things, and letting me have the realization I do like more foods than just Chipotle.
Not only did I gain a greater appreciation for the cuisine in China but also the overall culture and history. During the trip, we had the opportunity to visit some "must see's" like The Great Wall and the Forbidden city. Through these cultural visits I was able to learn about Chinas previous history, current events, as well as the impact of communism within the country. By far my favorite cultural visit was being able to not only see, but climb the Great Wall of China. As I struggled to keep going up the wall I couldn't help but think that me being out of breath was minor compared to how the people felt building the wall. To physically see how far it stretches is astonishing and makes you stop in your tracks for moments of appreciation and to take it all in, not to mention the view was the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. To see its beauty is something you can only truly appreciate in person and I hope anybody who has even a slight interest to view the wall takes the opportunity to go. Besides the Great wall, we had free time some days to visit places of interest, one of mine being the Beijing Zoo to see the Panda's and it did not disappoint. In Tianjin our group decided that in our free time we would take a boat tour on the river of the city. We were able to see the Tianjin eye, a gigantic Ferris Wheel, and enjoyed each other's company all while appreciating the city. Apparently our group thoroughly enjoyed boat tours as we also took one in Hong Kong through an old fishing village. Through all the cultural visits we did I developed a deep appreciation for the long lasting Chinese Culture and the impacts it has had on its people. Out of all the places I have travelled I have never seen such a rich culture and appreciation for one's history.
One way I was able to see first-hand the culture in action was when we had a trip to Nankai University. Here, we were able to talk to some university students and discuss issues and questions we had for them and vice versa. As the trade war is a prevalent issue right now it was very helpful and unique to be able to get a different perspective and how they thought about the same issues as us. Being able to sit down and talk to these students was the most impactful "business visit" we took the entire trip. After our discussion ended the students gave our group a tour around the campus then some even joined our group for dinner. During dinner we were able to see what a "local" eats and have everyday conversations with our new friends. After dinner some asked to get out numbers to keep in contact. This experience will definitely stay with me as a favorite memory for the rest of my life.
Other business visits included ADM, Cargill, China Top, Cotton Counsel, a dairy production facility, and more. These business visits were very interesting and greatly opened up my view on not only Chinese businesses but also American businesses working in China. Every place we went to I felt as though I was welcomed and my yearning for knowledge grew. From an Economic standpoint I was able to relate almost every visit and what they were saying back to my studies at TTU. A lot of the companies dealt with International Trade and taking TTU's International Trade class the previous semester really allowed me to not only understand what the companies were talking about but engage in meaningful conversations. Having an opportunity like this is not very common in the states, and I wanted to take the opportunity to fully dive into think about what the companies were saying. As a senior graduating in December, I was able to look back at the past couple of years I have spent at Texas Tech and understand the valuable knowledge I have been given. To put this knowledge into practice and talk to people about important topics within my major was the greatest educational advantage I have ever received and I fully believe that without this study abroad opportunity I would not be as confidant or as prepared to go into the work force when I graduate.
I believe everybody should study abroad at least once. The educational advantages it provides as well as the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone are things you may not be able to receive if you do not take the opportunity to study abroad. Through all the things I have experienced and learned I have also gained some of my best and closest friends though this opportunity. Being able to experience and grow with other people though study abroad somehow seems to build friendships and growth in a way that is very unique and cherish able. I would recommend a study abroad program to anybody and my advice to people on the fence is to take the leap and go. The opportunities I was given thought this trip was incredible and I cannot wait to see how it impacts my future.

Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

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    Texas Tech University, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
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