While I was in Xiamen, I realized how awesome my life was, but I realized that it was not because I was living abroad. Studying abroad is all the rage on every campus everywhere, but I sometimes wonder if it’s not the attitude that makes the experience special. The excitement, the freedom, the new experiences, the openness to everything – maybe that’s where the growth and learning come from.
But why can’t that happen anywhere? So here is my list of ideas, ways you can get the “Study Abroad Experience” wherever you happen to be:
- Take public transportation. Get lost on public transportation. Talk to people on public transportation – especially the crazy ones.
- Talk to everyone! Cashiers, waitresses, policemen, kids, taxi drivers, old people, priests . . . everyone!
- Try new foods. Point to something on the menu and trust the cook! Look around for local produce you’re not familiar with and learn how to cook it!
- Cook your favorite foods and share with others. Invite them to do the same.
- Make a bucket list. Make sure to include visits to the famous and not-so-famous things in your area.
- Try things you normally wouldn’t. Go to free performances of whatever sort. Take classes outside your major. Try a new route. Learn a new dance.
- Say “yes” when invited. Pretty much always. (But if it’s illegal, you can say no . . . )
- Get outside to enjoy the seasons. Or season. However many of them there are, experience them all!
- Look for diversity and similarities in unexpected places. Reflect on and record these experiences. Pictures help.
Feel free to steal this list for yourself, whatever walk of life you may be in.
I’ve been trying to keep these rules in mind as I start life on the West Coast, which sometimes feels as foreign as China! So far, resounding successes on #2 (pretty much besties with all the Marguerite shuttle drivers), #6 (um, physical fitness class? Expect a post soon on me learning taiji and Taiwanese), and #7 (which I have to thank for a particularly traumatic choir experience).
I’m also making progress on #1 (only on campus so far), #5 (bucket list started, but nothing checked off yet), and #8 (Stanford is bike-mandatory but I’ve only been here for two weeks). Really itching to get started on #4, but the insane availability of free food has made it hard to find time for dinner parties . . .