The Travel Bug:
In the past two years I’ve traveled, volunteered, and studied in 20 different countries all while being a student and interning at fortune 500 companies. The full list is as follows from chronological order.
- Hong Kong
As you may have noticed I got hit with the travel bug hard and while there’s plenty of countries left to see, I’ll get them all one day :).
As this blog grows I’ll try to touch on every one of the countries I’ve been so stay tuned for more in depth posts soon!
How it Started: Shanghai Study Abroad
Given that this is my first post about my travels, I need to start with the origins. So my first ever “TRUE” traveling experience was in Shanghai for my freshman summer, where I was in a cultural/language immersion program at Shanghai International Studies University. (I put TRUE in bold as this was the first time out of the country with no parents, VERY basic chinese language skills in a country where English is rare, and just a few friends in a foreign country)
I can’t stress enough how life changing this study abroad was for me. I could probably drone on and on about the topic, (WHICH I HAVE DONE) and convince you to go but if I had to break it down into 3 ways it changed my life it would be as follows
- Open Mindedness
- Sense of scale
Raise your virtual hands if you can say you’ve done the following things.
- Be in a country that doesn’t speak english for 3 months with barely any knowledge of the local language
- Live intimately (not like college floor mates) with completely random people not from your home country for 3+ months
- Haggle with strangers on the principle even if it only saves you a dollar or two
- Etc, etc, etc
What I’m trying to say is that part of traveling is being able to adapt to any situation. For me, my months abroad put me in so many of these situations I never imagined especially when it came to tackling language barriers.
My freshman summer was the first time where I had to constantly think on my feet to adapt to China’s language and culture. For example, things you think are rude like line cutting, spitting on the streets, and not giving a damn about the person next to you is just another day in China. If you don’t adapt to the culture and live like the locals you get taken advantage of and it sucks.
These types of uncomfortable situations require you to learn quickly and adapt, which is a skill valuable in many areas of life especially the professional world. (Not gonna lie, talking about my study abroad and how it made me adaptable landed me a few internships)
So I’m just gonna put it out there, I was A BERNIE OR BUST guy. Yeah yeah hate all you want, but let me explain why. I’m sure some Bernie or bust dude you talked with has raved about the social standards of Scandinavia and how amazing it is and you probably countered it by saying all sorts of things you read online like “they’re homogenous so it works” or “HELL NAH I AIN’T PAYING FOR POOR PEOPLE” (depending on where you lean on the political spectrum).
I’m not here to debate politics but let me just ask, have you ever lived with scandinavians? Have you ever actually talked to them in real life about politics or economics? I did.
In fact I lived with 3 scandinavian guys (Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish) and through my interactions with them for 3 months studying abroad in Singapore I learned so much and it shaped my views of the world. I’ll go into more details in a later topic as this post is getting a bit long.
Sense of Scale
As my favorite show Rick & Morty discusses weekly, we are pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of life. We get so caught up in the day to day drama or routine you forget about your own needs and happiness.
This happened to me at Carnegie Mellon where for the first two years of CMU I hated it. Yes the people were great, but the stress culture was disgusting. I remember taking a coding class and when I went to sleep early, I felt bad for sleeping. If I put in some more hours of work I could make that B+ an A. If I don’t do all the extra curriculars, I won’t get a job. Going abroad made me realize there’s so much to the world out there than our current life.
The example I tell people about is when I came back from study abroad, I asked all of my friends a simple question. “Hey what did you do last semester?”
Guess what answers I heard? BORING BORING BORING answers. The answers were generally “oh I took this class, joined this club, did this assignment, etc” and then I would tell them what I did and it blew them away. I would tell them of how I visited ancient temples in Myanmar, relaxed on the beaches of the philippines, lived with a duchess of Belgium, puked in various countries after wild nights out, and many more wild stories. All of this while earning my degree, being on track to graduate on time, and spending less on tuition. Who was the winner in this story…. IDK you tell me ;).
Sorry for the long post everyone, there’s so much more I can dive into but I’ll save that for another time!