Ling Le - 2014 Program Participant

Sunrise over the The Great Wall of China

Not your typical sunrise

Why did you decide to apply for a study abroad program?

I applied for an international program because I wanted a better understanding of the world for what it truly is, and not just what everyone said it was like. It has been a great opportunity for me to experience just that, along with fulfilling some classes that went towards my degree.

Why did you choose to China as your study abroad destination?

My reason for choosing to study abroad in China is quite personal. Twenty-two years ago my parents set sail on a little canoe from Vietnam to Hong Kong in pursuit of an opportunity for a better future. They where around the same age as I am (21) when they decided to go to another country. Although our reasons are quite different, I like to think it’s another way in which my parents and I can relate.

They met each other overseas and had me. Although they technically lived in Hong Kong they were not allowed to leave to the perimeters of the refugee camp, so they knew very little about the place. They only lived there for three years; shortly after my birth they decided to return to Vietnam. I grew up asking about my birthplace, but they were never able to tell me much about it.

So when I discovered the opportunity to study abroad, I figured it would be a perfect way to learn about mainland China along with visiting my birthplace. My school did not have a direct program with any schools in China, The Education Abroad Network was the best and most effective way for me to get the most out of my experience so I took a leap and I have zero regrets since.

Visiting The Great Wall of China

TEAN students on The Great Wall of China

What was your favorite part about Shanghai?

Shanghai has changed and developed so much within the past few decades. One of the most evident parts of the change that has been going on is down at the Bund. Here you can find toddlers running around and even old couples on their evening stroll. It’s fascinating to think that in one generation some people have grown along side with Shanghai into the financial hub that it has become today. Shanghai is a twist of modern and traditional.

What makes TEAN’s program in Shanghai unique?

The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) contributed significantly to my overall wonderful experience. Every person that I've met on the staff made it feel like a family, instead of just a group of program advisors and coordinators. I still keep in touch with them to this day, whether it be for reference or simply just to tell them how much I miss China. It is really comforting knowing that I still keep in contact with a group of people who have contributed so much towards a choice that has allowed me to change and grow in such positive ways.

Tell us more about the support local staff provided you with during your time in Shanghai.

Medusa was in charge of the group of students in Shanghai. I have nothing but positive things to say about her! Everyone from the program referred to her as our Chinese mother, because what ever we needed she was there to help. Whether I was stuck on a mountain overnight with zero money left for food or lodging (which really happened) to arranging a cab to the airport, she was there 24/7. Literally, the lady does not sleep!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I honestly wish I stayed longer. I only participated for six months. I went off on a few trips of my own before returning home. Now that I am back, all I can think about is my wonderful time abroad. It has been nine months since I've returned, and I feel like I’m still having withdrawal symptoms. I think about it at least once a day.

Hiking The Great Wall of China

Everybody loves Kung Fu Panda!

What was a typical day like for you in Shanghai?

A typical school day would consist of morning breakfast, often from a street vendor that prepares it in front of you. My favorite was always the xiao long bap (soup dumplings) or a steamed bun. Then often times I’d grab coffee before class, again from another street vendor. The coffee in China tastes a little different than it does back at home, but that is to be expected. I'd head into class which usually didn't start till 10 a.m. I got pretty lucky with my schedule, I wasn't stuck with any super early classes. Classes at Fudan are very interactive, minus history courses. Overall the professors are very approachable. I didn't participate in many activities with the university; I was always using my time to roam around or make my way to different cities in China.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time in Shanghai?

I loved to wander around. There was always so much to see in Shanghai. The city itself is humongous!!! I'd like to say I covered a good amount of land in Shanghai, but there is still so much left to see and experience. I would take the metro into the city center, wander around, often times I'd find really cool streets or events going on and just observe. I think an appreciation for people watching is something I picked up abroad. It was either making my way into the center of town or traveling to different parts of China and Asia. Shanghai's location is perfect to fly off to other parts of Asia for a low price.

What was your accommodation like? 

Through TEAN, we lived in apartments not too far from the university. It was literally a five minute walk to class. I lived with other students from the U.S that also went through TEAN, and a local Chinese roommate. We've developed such a close relationship that I continue to keep in contact with them although the program is over. We actually just had a mini TEAN reunion with seven students from the program not too long ago. I've also flew to Europe for the first time ever, and met up with my roommate from when I lived in the apartment, and we explored Barcelona together!

How have you experiences abroad stayed with you now that you are home?

Choosing to go abroad has been the best decision I've ever made for myself till this date. It has opened my eyes to so many things that I've been too blind to see and appreciate before. Prior to the trip, I didn't have much of an appreciation for the little joys in life. I mean, I've always appreciated my family, the roof over my house, and things of that nature, but I don't think I appreciated anything for its true worth. I always knew there was more out there but I just always assumed that where ever you grow up in you'll most likely be stuck there for the rest of your life.

Going abroad helped me develop a confidence I've never had before. A year ago I would never even drive to an unfamiliar city by myself. Now, I fly off to foreign countries at the first chance that comes up. I've done a bit of traveling both in company and alone since my first solo departure to Shanghai. I've seen jaw dropping sights, experienced challenging as well as awesome moments, and developed wonderful friendships from people all across the world since.

The Bund, Shanghai, China

The Bund, Shanghai.

The world is a beautiful place, meant to be explored and shared.

Without my positive experience with TEAN, I wouldn't have been able to achieve everything that I've experienced in the past year.