#StudyAbroadBecause I am a global citizen

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Charlotte Chen was born in New York. Growing up, she embraced both Chinese and American culture through her living and learning experiences in both countries. She is a rising senior studying computer science at the University of Pittsburgh. Currently she is interning as a programmer in Washington, DC. Charlotte is passionate about arts and exploring international culture. She recently studied abroad in France.

#StudyAbroadBecause I am a global citizen - Charlotte Chen


What motivated your decision to study abroad in France?

I am personally really interested in art and culture, so I chose to study French when I went into college. I always believe the best way to learn a language is by positioning myself into the real cultural environment, that's why I chose to study in France; to practice my French and to gain a new perspective from another culture. ‬


What has your experience been like so far? 

The first month was really difficult and even frustrating because I had to find my apartment, set up internet, phone number, bank account with limited French language background. However, my French improved through the process as well as my ability to cope with difficult situations. Aside from the academic knowledge and all the fun I experienced in France, I also grew from the difficult and sometimes unpleasant experiences, and I am extremely proud of that.‬


What did you like most about studying abroad in France?

Understanding how people from different cultural background think differently from the US is my favorite part. I loved how I met so many people through my programs and even on my trips travelling alone. The tales they told about their home countries, about their perspective on the French and American culture is really interesting, and I often love to compare their perspective on the world with mine. It's definitely the people that really made my experience so enriching.‬


What are some challenges you faced while studying abroad?

It was the first time I had to spend 4 months in a totally strange country and I was only 1 of the 2 people from University of Pittsburgh who participated the program. The language barrier and the limited knowledge on how their financial or academic system work was definitely the hardest part. As I was taking care of my housing situation, I went through a hard time realizing how lonely I felt without my friends or family members in America. But eventually I met a lot of friends from other American universities, then as I was more confident with my French, I started meeting a lot of French students too. Two of them invited me to their house for their Christmas and New Year celebrations. I grew out of that loneliness quite quickly, and now I can say I have more friends from both the U.S and France.‬


What skills did you gain from your experience?

First of all, the ability to make trip plans. Secondly, the courage to communicate with people from a different language and cultural background. Both helped me to become a much more independent person.‬


Do you feel changed from your time abroad?

Well, of course my fashion taste got a lot better after 4 months in the city of fashion. But as I said, I definitely became a much more independent person after having to deal with everything on my own in a new city. When I came back to the U.S, I became really confident and efficient at making plans, whether it is academic plans, trip plans, or long-term personal plans. This is the feedback I got from a lot of my close friends and family members. ‬


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity? 

I consider myself born into two culture backgrounds: Chinese and American. I am extremely proud of that fact, which definitely makes me overconfident sometimes considering myself to having a more extensive cultural understanding than most of my peers. After studying abroad in France, I got to meet a lot of people from many, many different countries. I've learned so much from their experience and the way they think. "The more you learn, the less you know". After understanding more of other cultures, I realized how little I know to consider myself as an international citizen. The experience has taught me how little I know, thus encouraged me to continue to pursue my interest in international culture.‬


Why do you think international education is important? 

One word people often use to describe America is "exceptionalism." Americans often assume America as a leader of the world. Whether it is true or not, I believe it is not the right belief to have to improve as a nation. So many people I met on my trip, regardless of their major, have a much more mature cultural understanding than average American college students (and most can speak 2 or 3 foreign language fluently). On a personal level, studying abroad and understanding a different culture really distinguishes you from other students; it could potentially lead you to more international career opportunities or in cases where you have to deals with clients of foreign backgrounds. America luckily benefits from having immigrants from different cultural backgrounds, but in my belief, if the nation continues to neglect the importance of cultural education and unconsciously spread American elitism amongst younger generations, it is not going to function or improve as much as it would hope in the future, in comparison to countries that are rising rapidly with populations that are knowledgeable and interested in how other cultures think and function. ‬

#StudyAbroadBecause I am a global citizen



Lin Yuhan is the Politics and Culture Editor for Wandering Educators

Photo courtesy and copyright Charlotte Chen