Greetings, dear classmates, friends, alumni, parents, faculty members and other blog visitors! This is Dian Zhang 张典. I am a rising fourth-year McIntire student. It is my greatest honor to serve as the GCI Student Coordinator for COMM 4394: Market Insights in China, especially as an international student from China. This gives me the best opportunity to introduce my homeland to my US classmates and build up the global perspective together. I will use my knowlegde, language ability and my greatest effort to help everyone get the best experience out of this course. In the following May Term, I will keep recording the lessons we learn, the experience we enjoy and the memory we share under the lead of Prof. Maxham through blog posts and photos.
I’ll start off by saying that there is not a better time in my life that this opportunity could have presented itself. The chance to go abroad—to leave my life in Charlottesville behind and travel a place completely new and different—is something I never imagined I would actually be able to do. It was a rocky and emotional journey to finally take the jump and commit to a semester away from UVa, my favorite place on Earth. Yet now, two days away from flying to Copenhagen, Denmark for this spring, I could not be more ecstatic for this adventure and thankful that I decided to take the leap of faith.
I can’t believe that it’s already time for me to leave the United States for a few months. My semester starts a little later than most schools (Buenos Aires is in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s summertime now) so I’ve had plenty of time to pack and get ready. However, I’ve seemed to put off most of my preparations until the final week! The journey I’m getting ready to start seems so unreal that I have no idea what to expect. I’m just going to have to take it all in stride and adjust to everything I learn.
I am currently sitting in the airport waiting for my plane to Zurich. For the past two weeks, I have said the phrase “I couldn’t be more excited” time and time again when people have asked me about travelling to St. Gallen. Now that the time for me to do so is almost here, that assured sense of excitement and wonder is gone. Jitters and a tinge of fear have replaced it. It’s an odd sensation.
I just got hosed by the currency exchange at the D.C. airport. I am making an official note that I am going to figure out better places to change money and will write about it in this blog in the future.
All of a sudden, my study abroad experience has hit. I’ve visited UVA a couple of time during January to say goodbye to friends and figure out my summer plans, however, actually jumping on a plane and leaving the US for the semester still seemed months away. Well, I suppose this rush of anxiety will set the mood for thinking about my anticipated experience in Switzerland.
After packing my two suitcases, it finally hit me that I would be leaving the US for the first time ever. I will be spending four months in St. Gallen- a German speaking city in Northeastern Switzerland.
I have already almost finished packing all my things for the upcoming trip. It was definitely tricky trying to manage 6 months worth of clothes, supplies, etc. into basically one luggage. I must be really good at Tetris because it looks as if it’s all going to fit. I leave Wednesday but it is still hitting me that I am going to be gone for so long. Still many of the details of my trip are yet to be solidified (e.g. getting an internship in China), and from the looks of it, I won’t be getting those details anytime soon. Regardless, I am very optimistic about the trip and look forward to all the different things I will experience. I have already begun deciding what other cities and possibly countries I would like to visit during my time abroad. I have received several suggestions from friends and family, but I feel as if not all my trips are going to be premeditated. I’m sure some of my trips will simply be short weekend trips (assuming my course schedule can accommodate for that). Hopefully, I will meet people during my time abroad that can also suggest areas to visit, that non-locals may not know about or places that may not be in all the tourist books. This is especially exciting because I feel like locals suggesting places to visit will provide me with a much more in-depth and rich cultural experience.
As my 45 day Winter Break comes to a close, I’ve begun to think reflect on my upcoming trip to England.
My first goal is to travel as much as possible. I love history, towns and the countryside, and I hope to see as much as I can. My second goal for studying abroad is to meet as many people as possible. Not only will I have the opportunity to meet British people, but I’ll also be studying with students from all over the world. I hope that I’ll be able to spend a lot of time with them and develop lifelong friendships across the globe. Lastly, I hope to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. I grew up on early British punk rock, and with the exception of sausages made from goat blood, I love all things British. This semester will allow me to live more as a Briton than as a tourist.
I am about to get on to the Eurostar from London to Paris. Although only a train ride away from my home city, I’m sure Paris will prove itself to be an exciting and cultural adventure. I have opted to live off-campus from HEC and instead have found an apartment in the centre of Paris. I am nervous about the length of the train ride out to HEC but with Paris on my doorstep, I’m sure I will manage. I have so many things that I want to do, see and learn in Paris, but off these I have three key goals that all centre around a complete immersion in to the French way of life. My first is to adopt and be able to pull off the chic parisian style. The effortless elegance of french style is something I have always admired, and with a whole semester in Paris, this is my chance to really learn their ways. Following on from french fashion comes french food. I love french food and plan on embracing the french eating habits, with many baguettes, pates and cheeses alongside lovely pastries and espressos. No american or british food needed. My third goal is to only speak french, even if I get spoken to in English, as is often the way when in a foreign country, I will always try to reply in French.
My goal for this trip is to be able to look back and say that I really learned a lot. Not only in the classroom, but outside as well. I want to immerse myself in all aspects of the Danish culture, and try new things. In order to make the most of this trip, I have set three goals I would like to accomplish. First, I want to keep an open-mind about things. I have a tendency to stay where I am comfortable rather than venture out and try new things. Part of the reason I am studying abroad is so that I can become more independent and expose myself to new experiences and opportunities. Second, I want to be-friend at least one Dane. I don’t mean just waving to the locals on the street, but really getting to know someone. I would love to develop a relationship with a local Copenhagen resident for the duration of my stay and hopefully for a long time after that. Finally, I want to make sure I see every part of Denmark so I can truly experience the culture.