Eliana Johnson

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Global Studies and Political Science Major/Chinese Minor
Program: Fudan University Exchange
Location: Shanghai, China
Email: ellie.johnson@unc.edu
Term: Fall 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I've always thought studying abroad during college is one of the best ways to live in another part of the world and experience another country's culture; it's just been something I've always wanted to participate in. Ever since visiting Shanghai with a high school class, I've known I wanted to study abroad there during college. I chose Fudan University because of the reputation for social sciences and its location.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I really like to solo adventure. I didn't manage to go anywhere too far, but venturing around the city on my own was really fun. Just wandering down market streets at my own pace, taking in the sights (and smells- nothing's better than the smell of various fried street foods wafting down the alleyway), and engaging with local vendors was a perfect weekend day for me.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories is meeting another student from Finland who shared my passion for tennis. We would meet up to play at least once a week, meaning we became very good friends. In October, we went together to the Shanghai Rolex Masters Open ATP Tournament and had a really great time. We saw tons of famous professional players, and talked a lot about the differences and similarities between our two country's cultures. Good entertainment and good company are hard to beat!


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My advice to anyone going into a program without any other connections is to put any introverted tendencies away for at least the first week. Sometimes, even if its not your personality, you have to just take a deep breath and introduce yourself, otherwise you'll be sad you missed your opportunity for some once-in-a-lifetime experiences!


Would you do it again?
100% would do it again.


How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
Learning how to be flexible is the biggest takeaway from my experience. I had to cope with people not understanding me, even when what I was trying to say was the correct response (Chinese is...complex, to say the least), a completely opposite culture, and internet crackdowns without warning. Although those things are pretty unique to China, the flexibility that I gained from having to work around these unique obstacles has definitely prepared me for many challenges (especially if they're in my native language).


How do you identify?
Student of color


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being half Chinese was a bit strange. China is so homogenous, local people I interacted with didn't really understand or like the concept of being half-Chinese. They especially didn't like that my mother was born and raised in England and doesn't know any Mandarin Chinese. I had a hard time with people in China not recognizing the Chinese in me at all when it is such a big part of my identity here in the U.S..


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Don't let what local Chinese people say affect you, their culture is blunt and they are more curious than trying to be offensive.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
My friends there and at home.


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