Name: Sam Kilberg
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Program: Chinese Language and Culture in Harbin China, Summer 2011
I think the only way you can truly know your own country is to leave it. Americans can be very myopic about their culture and therefore tend to have preconceived notions about things they have no experience with. That and due to the fact that China and the Chinese culture have always fascinated me probably because of my mother’s love of all things Chinese are the reasons I decided to go study abroad in China. I recognized that China is quickly becoming a global entity and knowledge of the language and culture would benefit me in my future endeavors. MSU’s study abroad program is amazing. Even given my financial constraints I knew it was something I had to do to prepare myself for the future. Learning Mandarin Chinese while studying International Relations made me realize how important it is becoming to understand and experience the Chinese culture in order to have the tools to effectively negotiate and work with this rising global power. Looking back, the most beneficial part of studying Chinese in China was that my learning and studying of the Chinese language did not stop as soon as I left the classroom. We were always learning and always speaking Chinese. We had to order food, talk with our tutors and have a conversation with our classmates all using Chinese. Just being in China surrounded by the Chinese culture 24/7 accelerated my learning curve beyond belief. What I will take away from my time spent in China is not to judge a country’s people by those who govern them. This is something very important now and will be for future years to come. When I arrived in China it was a whole new world but I was surprised to notice that the many Chinese college students I met were just like American college students. They would skip class to watch big sporting events and go out to eat with friends. They want the same things in life that many of us want. It was good to know that even though the Chinese culture is so very different from American culture and these two countries are so very far apart from one another the people that inhabit it are in many ways similar. In fact I met and made friends with other students from all over the world and when we went to a bar, out to eat or played basketball we were just college students and friends. I like to think the world could be like this someday.