There is something about going away and leaving home for university that forces you to grow up. While it’s not as drastic as moving away to start a whole new life, it does help shape your perspective on life. For instance, certain cultural differences that we see on the tv really come to life when you are experiencing it first hand. As an exchange student from China, studying at Minnesota University was truly an eye-opening experience.
Freedom of speech
It’s not so much what you can say, but how people act. One of the major differences was how people openly expressed themselves. We were taught that respecting elders meant that they are always right and you cannot argue or debate with an elder because that would be disrespectful, including your teachers. Therefore, it was with great surprise that I watched how my classmates questioned the lecturers and led discussions rather than letting the elder - the lecturer - the same kind of treatment we would back home. Ultimately, this has led me to be more assertive (maybe too assertive at times) and accept the idea that your teachers have the potential to be wrong. One big takeaway from this aspect of my life is to question everything and everyone.
The internet is unrestricted
When we think of the internet in China, we accept the limitations that have been imposed on us because it’s all we know. For academics that need to bypass these limitations can look at research VPN providers, for leisure seekers that want to use Facebook, they can also seek out VPNs to help curb this restriction. There is no lack of a get around. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? However, coming to America opened up the internet and showed me a whole new world of what it means to live in the land of the free. You can watch and stream everything. The world is truly your oyster and all kinds of information are right there at your fingertips at a tap of a button.
One of the key things about going away to university is the fact that you have a lot of growing up to do. Back home, academics is everything. Children are taught to leave house chores to the adults and simply focus on studying. Saying you need to study gets you out of everything, your mother would cut up fruit and send it to your room and hush your siblings for being rowdy because you’re “studying”. However, this means that we never learn to cook or clean, unless that is part of our education which is highly unlikely - this is where the general stereotype comes into play. It’s not a stereotype, it’s true. Academics rank very highly in a Chinese household and being away from that household taught me discipline and a little more wiggle room when it comes to studying because I need to make time for chores and something new I learned at university: I need to make time for myself.