Studying Abroad Doesn’t Have to Break Your Bank

Dear Editor,

In Spring Quarter 2007, I was one of the many economics students at UCSD learning about the fascinating social and economic changes taking place in China. After so many of my courses had a special focus on China, I decided that the best way to understand what was happening was by studying in China and seeing things firsthand. The idea of learning the language and trying to adapt to a completely different culture made the idea of the trip even more appealing. I found the business and economics program at Fudan University in Shanghai and applied immediately.

In the beginning of the application process, I was concerned about the costs involved with studying abroad. But after doing some research and visiting the Education Abroad Program office, I realized that the cost is not necessarily higher than staying in UCSD. Even if certain exchange programs are more expensive, there are scholarships that are only available for students who study abroad. I applied to five of these scholarships, and I received the Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman scholarship provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding to participate in worldwide study abroad programs. There are other study abroad scholarships available, and people from the Education Abroad Program office can help you find the right ones for your particular exchange program. So if one is really determined to go abroad and willing to spend some time applying for scholarships, money should not be an obstacle. The experience is definitely worth it. Students will learn a lot about the country they visit, but most importantly, they will learn a lot about themselves.

Living in Shanghai challenged me from day one, as I had to immerse myself in a completely different world literally overnight. The very first day I arrived at my new university’s dorm, I had to use the little Mandarin I had learned to find my new apartment, figure out how the heater worked, introduce myself to my Korean roommate (he spoke no English) and urgently buy toilet paper.

My visits around the city and trips around the country were just as useful as my courses when it came to learning about China’s success story and current challenges. I visited Buddhist temples located next to brand new shopping malls, took trains across beautiful landscapes and polluted rivers and walked by Beijing’s brand new luxury hotels as well as its overcrowded run-down buildings. Contrasts are everywhere in China, and studying there was the best way for me to experience its implications for the country itself and the rest of the world.

After the end of my year abroad, I returned to UCSD with a much clearer understanding of China’s current challenges, a better idea of my capacity to be outside my comfort zone and enough Mandarin to keep in touch with the Chinese friends I left in Shanghai.

— Santiago Halty

2008 Warren College Alumnus

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