Gabrielle Dawkins - 2013 Program Participant

Gabrielle and Her Friends at the Great Wall of China
Gabrielle and her friends at the Great Wall of China.

How did you come to study abroad through ISA?

At the time my university had opportunities to go to countries like Brazil and Ghana. Unfortunately, China was not on that list. One of my friends referred me to a variety of programs that would offer me the opportunity to go to China. I then researched the programs, dissecting each one by cost, timespan, and credibility. ISA was the only program that stood out to me. It was the most concrete choice, and it just felt right. If I had questions or was concerned about anything, it was always a welcoming response whenever I called. 

Having gone through the process, what advice would you give to other Florida A&M students about studying abroad in Shanghai?

I would tell other students going to study abroad to “just do it!” It is a learning experience in itself, and you won’t be disappointed. Don't worry about the cost; there are ways to find assistance, and there are a ton of study abroad scholarships. Another piece of advice I would give would be to plan ahead. It was extremely difficult dealing with the study abroad office on campus. Make copies of everything and make mini deadlines that you have set for yourself. It can become overwhelming if you are taking a full load of classes, are involved on campus, and preparing to study abroad. Give yourself enough time to finish everything.

Side note: In the near future I hope to see an increase in students at FAMU studying abroad. Being in Shanghai allowed me to see for myself that not many African Americans study abroad. There is a small percentage of individuals who study abroad at FAMU.

What made Shanghai a rewarding place to study abroad in China?

Prior to going abroad, I studied Mandarin for one year. Shanghai was and still is an opportune place to study abroad; it is a developing area where you can practice your conversational speaking skills. I was always taught that secluding oneself in a country or a place where a small amount of individuals speak English was the best way to learn the language. There were struggles getting around town; it was not always easy, and at times I felt as if I wasn’t learning quick enough. However, every day you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep moving. Day by day you get better, it just takes time.

What was your favorite class in Shanghai?

While abroad, I took two classes: Marketing Strategies and Intermediate Chinese. Intermediate Chinese, my favorite, was like no other class that I had ever taken. We gained a personal bond; there were three people in class including the professor. Questions pertaining to the Chinese culture were answered in class. It sometimes led to a discussion that related to the lesson or that had additional, beneficial information. The speed of our class was based on the performance of the students. Due to our fast learning rate, we finished one book within five days and were halfway through the second book. The class was perfect!

What life lessons did you learn from Shanghai?

This experience impacted me in so many ways. It made me realize to never let anyone stop your vision. Whatever it is that you want to do, do it wholeheartedly.

Thousands of miles away from family and friends, you have no choice but to depend on the individuals you came with. For one, you are around them all day because you’re told to never go anywhere alone, especially as a female. Being around someone for the majority of the day creates a bond of trust. A year later, I still keep in contact with my study abroad friends. I even went up to New York to visit one of them in March.

This trip also taught me how my life would be after college.