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Last spring, I traveled to Shanghai, China, for four months as part of the Internship Study Abroad Program offered at Boston University. Although I was born in China, I had not been back since I was 10 years old. I had no idea what to expect from my return to my ancestral home.

One of the criteria for me when I was selecting colleges and universities was the ability to study abroad. I have an interest in studying business, I wanted the opportunity to experience the business environment in an international setting. I also wanted to be able to reconnect with my birth country and improve my Chinese. BU offered exactly what I wanted.

As part of the program, I interned in the finance department at a local start-up during the day and took night classes at Fudan University. In our free time, my friends and I loved to explore the city in search of interesting places to eat. One time, we waited more than two hours just to try the famous Shanghai Xiaolongbao at the Nanxiang Steamed Bread Shop in the Yu Garden. We also tried traditional Shanghainese cuisines at the local eateries. One of the most interesting aspects of the Shanghai food culture is its diversity; it is very common to find influences of different regional cuisines in the local restaurants, such as Szechuan and Mongolian.

Photo by Solveig Boernsen

During long weekends and holidays, I took trips to the small cities and towns surrounding Shanghai. The most interesting place I visited was the Water Town, WuZhen, which is west of Shanghai, on the banks of the Grand Canal. This historic and scenic town, which features traditional architecture, intends to recreate the traditional lifestyles and practices of ancient water towns. There, I was able to ride in one of the many rowing boats down canals that connect the different districts within WuZhen. The town, which provides modern-day citizens with a view into the rich cultural past of rural China, was a sharp contrast to the modern lifestyle of Shanghai.

During my time in Shanghai, I had many opportunities to interact with BU alumni and potential students. I attended a happy hour event with local alumni, many of them recent graduates who moved to China after graduation. They discussed why they had decided to become expats and how they’d made the transition. As someone who also has plans to return to China, I enjoyed speaking with alumni who have gone through the process already. I also had the opportunity to influence potential BU students when I assisted the BU admissions staff during the Shanghai international admissions reception. I shared with potential students my experience at BU and answered questions they had about life on campus. From these exchanges, I recognized that as a student and an alumna, I can contribute to the BU community in many ways.

Through my internship, classes, and travels, I had the opportunity to interact with diverse groups of individuals, ranging from local Chinese students to expats living in Shanghai. Each person I met had interesting stories and experiences to talk about. In turn, I was able to share my experiences and interests with them. I am happy to say that following my return to the United States, I continue to maintain contact with my newfound friends.

I also began to see that my experience abroad changed how I view the world around me. It made me appreciate BU’s diverse student population. Each day, I interact with students from all over the world, in classrooms or in clubs and organizations. I realized that their motivation to study in the States is the same as mine: we all share a passion for diversity and cultural exchange.

For more information on Boston University’s programs in Shanghai, visit the Study Abroad website.