The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Victoria 兰心 Landa-Steinau

I am majoring in Political Science and minoring in Asian Studies. I will be graduating in three years. I attended Loyola University Chicago for two years and then decided to study abroad for my last year of my undergraduate degree at all three of Loyola's international campuses. I am deeply passionate about travel and find that studying abroad is the best way for me to pursue my dreams at this moment. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to see things as they truly are and broaden my perspective on my own situation in the world in such a way that could have never been possible otherwise. As of date, I have only been abroad for two months but I can already tell that going abroad for a year has been the best decision of my life.
5 Tips to a Successful Immersion Abroad

5 Tips to a Successful Immersion Abroad

And just like that the semester was over! As I prepare for my spring semester abroad in Vietnam, I reflect upon my experience in Beijing–and man, what an experience! I sit writing this post in Lisbon, Portugal sitting across from a young gentleman who spent his semester studying in Vaxjo, Sweden and a woman who traveled around India for a month. We discuss the cultural barriers we encountered and the big insights we gained. Here were some of my key takeaways that I will be referring to as I continue my year abroad:

  1. Language, language, language: the more I travel, the more I discover how important language skills are. As a native English speaker from the United States, it can be difficult to find opportunities to practice foreign languages but, at least in terms of developing personal relationships, the ability to speak someone’s native tongue is crucial. I once met an Ecuadorian man who told me that his girlfriend of two years only knew the “English” side of him. Language is beautifully complicated and there are parts of this Ecuadorian man that can’t be translated. As I was saying goodbye to a dear Chinese friend of mine, all she could manage to say was, “you’re my favorite and I’ll miss you a lot…I have so much more to say but I can only say it in Chinese…” Over the next semester, I strive to dedicate even more time to developing my language skills. I know no Vietnamese but I am setting a goal now to actively seek out opportunities to practice the language while in-country.
  2. Cultural competency: you can read about China in the newspapers, you can watch Chinese movies, and you can make a trip to Chinatown, but you won’t understand what you don’t know until you are fully immersed in the deeply complex culture of the country. Same goes for almost every nook and cranny in the world. I learned the most about my host country through my interactions with the locals–an invaluable aspect of study abroad. Through one conversation I had with a Chinese national, I heard about her study abroad experience during the Dalai Lama’s visit in the United States. She was attending Loyola University Chicago and all of her friends were getting tickets to see the Dalai Lama except for her. They were confused about her lack of enthusiasm. She told them about her view of the Dalai Lama and many were shocked to hear her opinion. Because of her friends’ reaction, she herself questioned her views–just as I have continuously throughout my cultural confrontations. It is these nuggets of rediscovery and discomfort that give us the most knowledge. During the next phase of my travels abroad, I am placing an emphasis on interacting with the locals.
  3. Professional development: Beijing is an excellent place to broaden your skill set. My semester in China opened my eyes to a new world of business. Any study abroad experience can give you the opportunity to work in a cross-cultural setting that demands you to rise to a new standard. While in Vietnam, I will work at another institution further developing global-professional skills.
  4. Health: pay attention here! I am about to give you my secret to success: HEALTH!! My health regiment is as easy as this: sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise, and stay positive. That simple. As long as I stay healthy, I am happy, energetic, focused, and productive.
  5. Consciousness of self: as a part of my jesuit education, I learned about the importance of R E F L E C T I O N. As a busy-bee, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of study abroad. But, sometimes, I must take a moment to stop going through the motions of life and ask myself: what is the motivation behind my actions? As a young volleyball player, my coach used to yell at me, “be mindful!!” After all, how can you fix incorrect behavior if you have fallen into a pattern? Same goes for life abroad. After my initial settlement into a new environment, I can get caught up in a routine. However, I have been able to accomplish the goals I set by constantly reminding myself what they are and choosing actions that align with my set goals. I reflect by journaling, conversing with close friends, or simply spending some time with myself. Now, as I look back at the goals I set for last semester, I am proud to say I have accomplished most. To continue to set myself up for success, I will follow the five tips I have mentioned as I carry on my journey.
Is it Even Possible to “Settle In” In a Place Like China?

Is it Even Possible to “Settle In” In a Place Like China?

If you could go ANYWHERE in the world for five months, where would you go? For good or bad, I never asked myself this question. Instead, I simply let my surroundings decide for me. Confused? Yeah, me too.

I moved to Chicago a little over two years ago when I enrolled in Loyola University Chicago. Since the first time I set foot on Loyola’s campus, I fell in love with everything around me. Fast forward to one month ago, and I felt a very different feeling as I set foot on Loyola’s partner campus–The Beijing Center (TBC) locate at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)–here in China. I wish I could say that I came to China because I love Chinese culture so I wanted to experience it firsthand or that I am intrigued by the recent economic boom in China and I want to learn more about its successes but, in actuality, I knew little to nothing about China before my arrival. In all honestly, my home institution–Loyola University Chicago–played a huge role in encouraging me to explore the once isolated country of China.

On August 8th, 2016, I landed in Beijing with a 50lb backpack digging into my shoulders and a huge suitcase in hand. I waited for two hours in line to go through customs and then had my luggage screened not once, not twice, but THREE times before I was allowed to exit the airport. As I walked outside, a young Chinese man was holding a sign that read, “TBC.” I couldn’t help but smile. Finally, I stopped holding my breath. Someone was here to guide me!!

As we sat in traffic on our way to campus, my eyes stayed glued to the window. I was amazed by the new world in which I had just landed. My mind was racing a million miles a minute. What does that street sign mean? What kind of food is that?! Why are so many people squatting? Is traffic usually this bad? What is the taxi driver saying to the Chinese man who came to pick me up? Am I going to have to pay for this taxi? Oh shoot…does he take credit card?!

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The Chinese man kindly paid for the taxi as we were dropped off in front of UIBE. The Chinese man helped me with my luggage and escorted me to my dorm. Seeing that it was 6:35am, I was one of the first students to arrive. Instead of collapsing on my bed like I would have liked to have done, I immediately began to unpack. I couldn’t believe it. I was finally here.

Today, September 22nd, I sit on my bed as I write this blog post. I look around my room and see the lamp I bought from IKEA, the dishes I dirtied from cooking breakfast this morning, and the books I checked-out from the library scattered across my desk. My planner lay next to me and glance at it, seeing the events I plan to attend over the next few days. If you can be “settled in” in a place like China, I would say I’m almost there. I do not fee

l do not feel familiar and I do not feel comfortable but I definitely feel growth and that is why–even if I didn’t know it before I came–I am here!

If you are dying to see pictures from my adventures here in China, follow me on Instagram!
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