How studying abroad empowered me
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
“After living in different places with my classmates and traveling by myself, I realized I just love traveling so much. I love living in different countries and meeting new people.”
Last year, I started my Master's program in Global Business (MGB) at the University of Victoria. Designed for business graduates from Canada and across the world, this program offers a unique mix of applied learning and international experience. There are different "paths" you can choose from, which take you to different corners of the globe. I enrolled in the one that allowed me to study and live in Canada, France, and South Korea for three months each. This international experience helped develop a global mindset that I now incorporate into my daily life.
As I was preparing to start the program, I was excited for things to come. Studying and living in different countries with my classmates from various backgrounds sounded like a dream to me. On the one hand, it would be my first time visiting Canada and Europe. So I was looking forward to exploring Canada's nature while studying in Victoria, and learning about the French culture while studying in Montpellier. On the other hand, South Korea would be a place where I would feel right at home. This is because when I did my undergrad at the Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State (US), my best friends at university were Koreans. I was so happy that I would be able to visit my friends again and live in South Korea for those 3 months. I started the program with great enthusiasm for things to come!
Throughout the program, the experiences abroad did not disappoint. I traveled to a total of 10 countries and visited 18 cities. It has been an eye-opening and unforgettable experience, which helped me to understand myself better and develop a deeper knowledge of the world. Spending every day with my classmates in a foreign country, I realized that we are so different, but also so similar to each other. We have different cultures and traditions as well as different tastes in food, but we all love traveling. This endless thirst for adventure is what I believe brought us together the most. Thanks to the program, we developed a strong bond that will last forever.
My “aha” moments during the MGB program
I’ve always loved traveling. I had been to many places in Asia and North America before, but traveling to Europe was very different for me. There was just so much to see! Every country was so beautiful and unique in terms of architecture, history, and arts. Because there was so much to explore, I couldn’t think of just one particular moment that stood out but rather a mix of things that influenced my understanding and appreciation for the different cultures throughout Europe.
For example, as an art enthusiast, I was very impressed by David of Michelangelo in Florence. It is fascinating that someone could actually make a statue so vivid and marvelous at that time. Every detail of David is perfect. It is just unbelievable.
Another great moment was when I visited the beautiful city of Barcelona in Spain. I had the opportunity to visit Sagrada Familia, which is probably the most iconic church in the world. I really enjoy Gaudi's work which is visible all throughout the city.
Finally, going to Marrakesh in Morocco, Northern Africa, was very special to me. It was so different from all the cities I had visited. Everything was new to me: the food, the culture, the language. All of this combined made it unique from my other trips. I rode camels in the desert and had Morrocan food for the first time.
In conclusion, I was blown away by the wonderful arts that exist and the amazing places that I visited. After my journeys, I just felt the world is so big; and many mysterious places out there are waiting for me. I was really happy when I lived in France. I will definitely go back to Europe and explore more places one day!
One tough moment abroad
Honestly, there weren’t too many tough moments during the MGB program for me. It was mostly great! The only thing I did miss sometimes was Chinese food. When I was living in Montpellier, there were not many great Chinese restaurants. And it was also hard to find the sauce and ingredients I normally use to cook Chinese food. I did love French food, but it was challenging for me not to have real Chinese food for months.
The most unexpected thing that happened during MGB
The most unexpected thing for me was traveling alone to Italy and Spain. I had only traveled with my friends and family prior to that. I am someone who doesn't like to do things by myself. I wouldn’t even enjoy going to a restaurant alone, so I would never have imagined myself traveling alone in a foreign country before MGB!
I wanted to visit Italy and Spain during our holiday break but all my friends already had plans. So to visit those countries, I had to travel solo. I am so glad I did it as it turned out to be a great experience! When I was traveling by myself, I didn’t have to consider other people’s opinions and preferences. I could do whatever I wanted and explore the places that I really wanted to see the most.
I stayed in an Airbnb for 2 days in Spain and the hosts were amazing. They made me feel right at home and recommended some places to go to. They even offered me drinks at their apartment. After that, I stayed at hostels where I met new friends throughout the rest of the trip.
However, the most memorable thing about my solo trip was making my first Greek friend. In Barcelona, I booked a guided tour at the Picasso museum. After the tour, one girl in the group came to me and asked if I wanted a picture, as she could tell I was alone. She was very kind and sweet, so we started to chat. She told me she was a high school student from Greece and we exchanged our contact information. We ended up hanging out the second day and she became my first Geek friend whereas I became her first Chinese friend. I have never been to Greece before, but I am planning to visit her in the future. Meeting her was the highlight of my solo trip!
How this experience changed my perspective
After living in different places with my classmates and traveling solo, I realized I just love traveling so much; and I love living in different countries and meeting new people. Hence, I am not sure if I will be happy if I do a 9-5 job and settle down now. I want to see the world. I also want to work with people from different countries.
After finishing my final MGB course, a marketing & digital media internship with World Wild Hearts, I am going back to China to look for a job. I am targeting international companies and the jobs that allow me to keep traveling.
How MGB inspired me to do something new
After studying abroad for the MGB program, I realized I want to be more prepared before I go on my next trip. For me, traveling is all about getting to know new places, cultures, food, and people. I noticed that it would have been more helpful if I would have spoken French or Spanish when I was in Europe. I think I would have an even better time if I could communicate with local people when traveling, so I am planning to continue studying French. I also want to learn Spanish. There are many Spanish speaking countries in the world and I would love to go to those places in the future.
Advice for people who are hesitating to study abroad
If you also love traveling, studying abroad is a great choice. Even if you are afraid of doing it alone, my suggestion is to be open and brave. Take the leap and don't hesitate! You will find amazing and unforgettable experiences along the way. Your travel experience will be the best time of your life! You won’t regret it.
To learn more about the MGB program through the University of Victoria, visit their website.
To follow Tiffany’s future travels, check her out on Instagram: @xiaopeihuang
To follow MGB on Instagram and travels of future paths, check out their Instagram: @mgbunited
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