#StudyAbroadBecause there was nowhere to go but everywhere!

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Xiaotong (Elaine) Jiang was born in Jiangsu, China. She moved to Pittsburgh in June 2017. She lived in New York for two years before she moved to Pittsburgh. Elaine is currently a junior at University of Pittsburgh and majoring in Finance. Elaine started with the Career Development and Placement Assistance office in March 2018 as an undergraduate Global Career Intern. 

Painting, dancing, and reading are some of her hobbies. Elaine is passionate about having a global career, and is currently studying for her Japanese Language Proficiency Test. She hopes to attend graduate school after she completes an undergraduate degree in 2019. With a passion to experience different cultures and find diverse inspirations, she aspires to work around the world in the future. Elaine looks forward to serving the international and domestic students who are interested in global careers at Pitt, and helping the office with global career activities and planning.

Kyoto Kiyomizu-dera. Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!
Kyoto Kiyomizu-dera

What motivated your study and live in the United States? 

The quality education, diversity, and innovative technologies motivated me to study and live in the U.S. Many world class universities are located in the U.S., and U.S. universities place great significance on diversity. Here, the classes consist of students of all ages, religions, and countries. The mixed culture here makes it an interesting place for me to study and live. The U.S. is also at the forefront of scientific and creative innovation, and large technology companies, such as Apple, Facebook, and Google, are located here. 

New York with friends. Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!
New York with friends

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

I still remember the very moment the 16-year-old me had just landed in New York City from China with nothing but two 50 lb suitcases: the bustling noise of the busy streets, the different, diverse looks of NYC pedestrians, the bright yet fierce glare of the summer sun...everything felt new, strange, a bit terrifying except for my deep down urge and determination to undertake challenges and explore my education and life in a foreign land. It is a bit easier for me compared to other international students, because my sister has her family in Pittsburgh, and I can talk to her if I encounter some problems. I lived in New York for two years, and then I moved to Pittsburgh last year. Now, I live with my sister, and she has an eleven-month old baby. Sometimes, I babysit my nephew. Though Pittsburgh is different from New York, I love my life in Pittsburgh, and at Pitt, as well. I made lots of new friends and I enjoy the feeling of having them around me. 

I think a lot of moments in the US are meaningful for me; it’s hard to decide which one is my favorite. I have experienced lots of firsts in my life in the US, and they are not all good experiences. The first time taking New York subway—it was dirty, smelly, and late all the time (if I was late for my class, most of time it’s because of the train). The first time running in Central Park in the early morning was when I felt like I really became a New Yorker (I swear I met the supermodel Karlie Kloss one time - we passed by each other in the Central Park). The first time eating Chinese food in the US - and I have to say New York has so much authentic restaurants from around the world, you will never feel bored in New York City. The first time going to a party, and meeting people I don’t know. The first time volunteering for a film festival - it was a wonderful experience; I met lots of film makers and actors/actresses. The first time moving from a city to another, when I moved from New York to Pittsburgh last year. There are countless meaningful moments during my time in the US. 

I don't think I personally encountered such big challenges, but I observed that most international students face challenges such as: 

1) Feeling like an outsider. At the beginning of studying abroad, they may feel like an outsider, unable or difficult to integrate into the local life and groups. But I think, as time passes, the feeling of being like an outsider will be gradually diminished.

2) Cannot get immediate help from family or friends, or feeling homesick. If there is any problem or accident, they may find that family and friends are too far to immediately help them. But as they gradually build up social networks here, there will be less panic and helplessness in the face of problems. 

3) Responding to cultural misunderstandings. As a foreigner here, it is impossible to know every local custom or unwritten rule, especially in the beginning. However, they can learn from their mistakes and any embarrassment, and then try to avoid the recurrence of these cultural misconceptions. 

Tokyo Ginza. Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!
Tokyo Ginza

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 

There are tons of skills I developed from my experience of studying abroad, such as language proficiency, flexibility, adaptability, perseverance, time management, and so many others! I definitely feel changed from my experience abroad, but in the beginning, it was hard for me to deal solely with school stuff. As time passed, I found some on-campus job, and I gradually learned how to manage my time, as well as balance study, work, and student clubs. There are lots of things I need to do everyday, and it is important to prioritize those things.

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 

Yes, of course. Moving abroad can be daunting and overwhelming, there is no doubt that relocating to another country is a challenge. However, I worked out how to settle in, acclimate and adjust to my new environment, which strengthened my ability to adapt. I believe this experience enabled me to adapt to any other country. Studying abroad also strengthened my independence, resourcefulness, and problem-solving skills. There’s tons of things or problems I have to deal with them by myself. Thanks to the experience of studying abroad, I became more independent, confident, and unique.

Tokyo Senso-ji. Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!
Tokyo Senso-ji

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad to the U.S.?

1)I recommend those students who are thinking of going abroad to the U.S. to try and visit the campus before they decide which school they are going to, if the conditions permit. In this way, they can know if they really like the school or city. Actually, this is very important, because you are going to study in this city and school for four years or longer!

2) I would also recommend to actively participate in school events, student clubs/organizations, and courses. Do not stay at home all the time, try to talk to your professor and make more friends. I believe most people here are really nice, and they are really willing to make friends with people from other cultures. 

3) Tuition in the U.S. is really expensive, so if you get the opportunity to work on-campus or intern somewhere, do not miss the opportunity. Working experience can not only make you some money, but also, more importantly, get you ready for your career! You can clarify your career path through the experience, and also let you know what skills you still need to obtain. Professional experiences are extremely important, no matter for applying a job/internship or graduate school. Not only in the U.S., but also in many other countries, the employers always prefer those people with work experiences. So, it’s never too early to expose yourself to different experiences in the workplace. 

New York Nature History Museum. Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!
New York Nature History Museum

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

The United States has all cultures in one place. The universities serve a large population of international students. The social life and environment here is built on a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and languages all living together in one place. Therefore, as an international student in this diverse context, I have clearly realized who I am and what my culture has instilled in me. I have strongly felt my cultural identity, and I love my country even more. And in the process of interacting with other cultures, I embrace and respect their cultures as well. This is another thing I have learned from studying abroad, which is always being open-minded.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

I currently work at Career Development and Placement Assistance at the University of Pittsburgh as Global Career Intern with Stasia Lopez through the fall semester 2018. If any international student is interested in sharing your stories, please contact: Stasia Lopez, at stasia.lopez[at]pitt.edu. We would love to feature you! 

#StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!

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Elaine Jiang: #StudyAbroadBecause...there was nowhere to go but everywhere!

Find Elaine online:
Twitter: Elaine_Jiang_xt
Connect with Elaine on LinkedIn


Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando, precious daughter, Maya, and playful kitty-cat Zorro.

You can read more of her #studyabroadbecause interviews, as well as articles on various forms of international education at home and abroad, here.


All photos courtesy and copyright Elaine Jiang