About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: History and Peace, War, & Defense
Program: UNC Phillips Summer in Shanghai
Location: Shanghai, China
Term: Summer 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I selected my specific program because of one specific class I took that sparked my interest in China. After taking HIST 285 with Michelle King in the Spring of 2019 for just 2 weeks, there was nothing I looked forward to more than going to that class and learning about how and why China is the way it is in modern times. Coincidentally, I happened to pass by a flyer for the UNC Phillips Summer in Shanghai program, but quickly shoved the idea out of my mind due to the fact that I don't speak any Chinese. However, after my interest about China grew stronger, I decided to make an appointment with the study abroad office to find a program in China where knowing Mandarin isn't required. To my surprise, Derek Shepherd recommended the exact program I had previously been interested in, and I was overjoyed by knowing that I wouldn't be hindered by my inability to speak Mandarin. This program also offers a history course taught by the wonderful professor Michael Tsin, who I have now had the opportunity to take three courses with. I would get to take a history class about China while living the experience in the moment.
What did you learn about yourself?
When I was in Shanghai, I learned a lot about my ability to adapt in situations that are uncomfortable. As a very anxious person who is constantly worrying about how others perceive me, it was evermore apparent in a nation-state where I was one of the only black people in nearly every situation I was in. I was fully aware of the fact that I stuck out like a sore thumb, which is usually something I try to avoid. I usually try to blend in with the crowd, but it was nearly impossible during my time in Shanghai. However, while this made me highly uncomfortable at first, it really forced me to grow as a person and be comfortable in my own skin, regardless of what others may think. I am so beyond thankful that my study abroad program taught me this, because I benefit from this skill every day now that I'm back on UNC's campus.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories from my program was when I went on a weekend excursion to Hangzhou, China. After experiencing the hustle and bustle that made up the metropolis that was Shanghai, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy from being in a huge city. When going away to the ancient province of Hangzhou, my group went on a walk in a bamboo forest, where we spent nearly two hours reflecting. We were all challenged to sit in silence and reflect on anything we wished. After being in Shanghai for four weeks already, I was really able to sit and reflect on everything that I had experienced and gain a unique appreciation for my time in China.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My advice to future study abroad students would be to face any, and all, fears you have by doing everything that sounds terrifying. Whenever you feel uncomfortable doing things, always push yourself way out of your comfort zone because you won't regret it. Experiencing new things is the main point of a study abroad experience, and you shouldn't go home regretting not doing something because of the emotion of fear. Don't ever be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!
Would you do it again?
I would do my study abroad trip again in a heartbeat. I would love more than anything to go back to Shanghai and relive the experience I had. To be able to feel the excitement and overwhelming joy I felt waking up every morning in such a wonderful place is something I will never forget. My experience allowed me to grow as a person, and really pushed me to challenge myself, which something I don't do on a daily basis.
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
My classes abroad were different than the ones taken at UNC because I got to see the things I discussed, analyzed, and researched in class in person. While studying narratives of specific stories about China written by Westerners, we got to visit different museums that all represented different discourses regarding Chinese history. In one of my elective classes, we discussed the role of propaganda in the Cultural Revolution, and then we were given the amazing opportunity to visit a museum that housed thousands of original pieces of art that served as propaganda nearly 60 years ago. This was such a unique experience to me as a student of history, and it really allowed me to dive deeper into the historical analysis of my studies.
How do you identify?
Student of color