Megan studied abroad in China, South Africa and Namibia. She now works as the Study Abroad Director at GoOverseas.com.
Where did you go to school?
When and where did you study abroad?
Summer 2007 in Hangzhou, China
Fall 2008 in South Africa & Namibia
Summer 2009 in Nanjing, China
2010-2011 in Beijing, China
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The best part of being abroad is the freedom. Your only real commitment is your classes and deepening your understanding of life in a new country. It’s back to basics: you can focus on eating new foods (bonus points for ones you can’t pronounce), making new friends and meaningful relationships, exploring, getting lost, making mistakes, finding your way back home again, etc. Without the distractions of jobs, extracurricular activities, family matters, and other various commitments you can hone in on all the amazing things that can happen when you take life into your own hands!
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
I learned how one-sided my understandings of life in other countries can be. Making relationships with others helped me to break down my preconceived notions of their politics, their economies, their histories. It also helped me better understand my own culture & ways to be a better rep of the USA.
What was your BIGGEST challenge when studying abroad?
The biggest challenge of studying abroad is staying committed to engaging in the local culture. We are creatures of habit and familiarity, and naturally want to gravitate towards those who share a common culture and language. Be mindful of your interactions and who you make your friends with while studying abroad – even friends from other countries (not necessarily your host country) can enrich your experience and understandings of the world.
Intentionally strive to make relationships with other university students or stay with a host family. Develop relationships instead of hundreds of photos. These are the memories that will be the most long lasting and have the biggest impact on you.
How did studying abroad change your life? How did it help you personally and professionally?
I remember my parents telling me about “study abroad” when I was a young teenager and deciding then and there that I would make it happen. I was always fascinated by other countries (such a geography nerd) and I couldn’t wait to get out there and see the planet for myself!
Studying abroad was an extremely positive experience both personally and professionally. It gives me that funny feeling in my stomach that I think is true and genuine happiness. People always say you should make a career out of something you love… so that’s what I’m trying to do! As a young professional just starting out in the field, I really feel called to help facilitate peace and understanding through educational exchanges. Doing research in the field, helping international students come to the U.S. to study, creating new study abroad programs, working with others to make sure study abroad programs are effective, and helping students process their experiences and continue to build upon them once they’ve returned to their home country are all projects I am looking forward to working on in my life.
What have you been doing post studying abroad?
I graduated from Valparaiso University in 2010 with a degree in International Economics and Chinese/Japanese Studies. The summer following I worked for Concordia Language Village’s Chinese outdoor camp Sen Lin Hu (was a blast!). I received a scholarship from the Chinese Government’s Ministry of Education to study Mandarin at Beijing Language and Culture University for one year beginning in the fall of 2010. While studying, I began interning for the study abroad provider China Study Abroad, and later began working full time as a program advisor. Meanwhile, I became the Study Abroad Content Editor for GoOverseas.com and managed their online content as a freelance contributor. They eventually had a position open for the Study Abroad Director at their company which I applied for and whaddayaknow, a month later I was on a plane from Beijing to San Francisco! I have been working here since June as a full time employee and loving every second of it!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for a student who is thinking about studying abroad?
Stay as long as possible! Even if a semester sounds like an impossibly long time to be away from home and your family and your university life, I promise you you’ll be wishing you hadn’t rushed back so quickly. Research programs for the best possible fit for you (it doesn’t need to be through your university) – be picky, be upfront about your goals, and plan early! Also, leave your smart phone at home. :)