SAF scholar Haeri Kim captures the first days of her first semester at Michigan State University.
SAF scholar Geming Liu discusses what studying abroad has meant to her.
Blair School of Music is also a part of my experience at Vanderbilt. I take piano classes there. Actually, I studied piano for more than 10 years, but at Vanderbilt I realized for the first time that music is a language. I learned that as a musician you need to listen to the music instead of just playing it. If you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter, just try again.
At Vanderbilt, I feel the peaceful power of my inner self. I haven’t found a clear-cut answer in my journey for self-exploration, but I will never stop thinking about those questions. At least I found out what I need, what I want, and I expanded the angle from which I perceive life.
Host: Vanderbilt University
Home: Jinan University
SAF scholar Zheng Wang captures the whirlwind experience of being a visiting student at the University of California, Berkeley.
A talented saxophonist, SAF scholar Asuka Ono discusses the unexpected rewards of joining the marching band as a visiting student.
I play alto saxophone, and I have played for six years (in the brass band club in middle school and high school). I joined the University of Montana Grizzly Marching Band because I expected that this kind of activity would be good relaxation. I did not want to just study all the time. Also, I wanted more American friends, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to make new friends. It has been that and so much more.
My favorite part of joining the marching band is game day. We mainly play for the pregame show and halftime show, three songs for each. We need to workout for these shows a lot, but it is the most fun part of the marching band. We also march for homecoming day, the welcome ceremony for freshmen and more events. Every time we play, people are excited, and I really feel that people in Missoula love Montana and this town, and this Grizzly Marching Band is very loved by the people in Missoula.
After I joined the marching band, I feel I am part of the local community, and I have a real feeling that I am studying in the U.S. I met my best friend in the marching band, and he is like my English teacher; it really helps my English skill development. I strongly recommend that future exchange students join a club activity. It is fun and gives you many unforgettable memories.
Home: Chuo University
Host: University of Montana
Major: Political Science
From Taichung, Kai Chang captures San Jose State University through the lens of a visiting student.
SJSU is a beautiful campus, although it is not big; but the students and professors are really friendly! It may help future SAF students to know more about how their living area will be. Here are some pictures of the dorm (double occupancy). There are a lot of campus events that we can join, like soccer games or attend a presentation given by the former YAHOO CEO. As an exchange student, I spend weekdays studying and travel on weekends. I would like to remind future exchange students to do well on time management while they are in the United States, and also be open minded and get involved in the campus [life]!
Home: Tunghai University
Host: San Jose State University
From Chizhou, China, SAF Scholar Shan Jiang shares insights into adapting to student life at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Life in America is enjoyable, but tough, especially at a prestigious university, where students all around me are exceedingly more diligent than I had expected. The foreign culture which lies in the daily routine includes divergent meal tastes, eating habits and even personal health care routines. Traditional Chinese tend to eat more soup to ward against colds, but peers in America usually use hand sanitizer instead. In class, things are quite different, endless discussions and exciting debates always open my mind. After class, my roommates also share different cookies and posters and other fun American things with me, which I enjoy a lot. In the meantime, the midterm exam around the corner is also stressful for a newcomer, like me, to the United States. Prejudgments about American student life aren't that useful for helping you adapt to the totally unfamiliar environment. So, cast aside your assumptions and enjoy the brand new and wonderful experience. Why not hang out and give it a try?
Host: Johns Hopkins University
Home: Central University of Finance and Economics I 中央财经大学
Undergraduate in Sociology I 社会学本科生
Department of Sociology School of Social Development I 社会发展学院
A whopping 47 percent of our students surveyed from SAF China said their primary reason for attending summer sessions is as preparation for graduate study abroad. We don't have to tell you that as a visting student gaining admission to Western graduate schools, especially programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), is growing increasingly competitive. Here are our tips for gaining an edge.
1. Strategically Advance Your Academic Experiences
Pursue specific academic enrichment opportunities that support your future goals. Participate in lab classes, group work and volunteer for extracurricular projects related to your desired field of study.
2. Improve Your Language Skills
Participate in class discussions, seize opportunities to lead presentations, join a student club related to public speaking, leadership or debating, and improve your writing skills through peer or professional tutoring at the university's writing center.
3. Make New Friends
A university campus is a wellspring of informal mentors. Reach out to fellows in your classes, talk with professors during their office hours and do your best to make lasting friendships with students from around the world. There's no telling how these relationships may help you.
4. Dive Into Local Culture
While it's comfortable to talk with the friends you have and eat the food you know, these habits will not expand your understanding of the local (and campus) culture. If you plan to further your education in the West, make an effort to experience life as a local through food, activities and new friendships. This will help you explain why a university's community is perfect for you in graduate school applications.
5. Be Recommendation Worthy
Professors have less time to get to know visiting students than full-time students and thus may be reluctant to write recommendation letters over summer sessions and short-term study. Don't take it personally, and don't push it. Throughout your education abroad (especially when you think no one's watching) demonstrate an interest in your courses by:
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In Beijing, SAF students and staff help raise awareness of autism.
On a Wednesday afternoon, while pushing the boy on a swing, Wei Shi wanted nothing more than to make him smile.
“Only once he made eye contact with me, and I found his eyes are so beautiful,” Shi said of the boy. “Maybe, I didn’t make an impact on him or understand his world; maybe he wouldn’t even remember me. But, when I saw his eyes, I felt that he was so lonely, and I wasn’t willing to leave him alone.”
So Shi entertained the boy with toys and conversation until his parents returned two hours later from a session on Applied Behavior Analysis. Shi is one of 18 SAF students and staff who volunteered to care for children with autism at an event hosted in August on the campus of Beijing Stars and Rain, China’s first non-governmental educational organization dedicated to serving children with autism.
Co-organized by SAF China, the event brought together educators, parents and volunteers for a day of learning designed to equip caregivers and the community with tools to better support autistic children to reach their full potential.
“We initiated this event for three reasons,” says Sean Qin, head of SAF China's media department. “One, to contribute to society. Two, to enhance the community engagement of SAF. Three, to raise awareness for autism through a series of actions.”
Autism is "a condition present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts,” as defined by Oxford University Press. The prevalence of autism spectrum conditions is 1 percent in developed countries, but little data are available from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a scholarly article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Molecular Autism.
Recently, in response to such news, the government in China has increased funding for autism research. Organizations such as Beijing Stars and Rain are doing their part to offer quality support services, but experts agree the country as a whole has more work to do when it comes to improving diagnosis, care and awareness. That’s where community involvement, like that of The Study Abroad Foundation, can help make a difference.
Following the event, Qin launched a campaign on Sina Weibo, a popular blog in China, in which he has asked SAF students to post photos of their host-university adventures and tag their friends. He will then collect and share the images with the children.
"Because these children face difficulties communicating with society, we hope we could bring them the beautiful scenery of this world through photos,” Qin says. “…We think this will let more people understand autism and the families’ lives better.”
For Shi, at least, that’s exactly what this initiative has done. “To be honest,” he said, “I couldn't imagine or understand their lives until this.”
by Erika Woodward
Hi, I'm Katie Lin, and this is my experience as a summer research student at Cornell University. In June, I finished my 3rd year of medical school at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. After an application process of several months through the Study Abroad Foundation, I was matched to an Assistant Professor of Epigenetics and Gene Regulation at the Baker Institute and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. I will be spending 6 weeks at his lab, assisting with the projects his lab team is currently undertaking.
My experience at the Baker Institute for Animal Health has been nothing short of phenomenal so far. The professors, technicians, software engineers and grad students at my lab are all extremely welcoming and willing to teach. Most of them do dry lab work, focusing on projects that study gene regulation using computational biology. However, I am assisting a graduate student with her research in genomic engineering and effects of evolution on the human immune system.
I usually start my day by reading papers, and do wet lab work in the afternoon. This includes cell counting, DNA extraction, PCR, CRISPR, and more, which are all performed in a lab coat and gloves, in a biosafety cabinet. The lab members also meet a few times during the week to discuss ongoing projects and to analyze any presentations and papers. All in all, it’s a very exciting learning experience and enjoyable way to spend the summer.
SAF scholar Minji Youn offers a sneak peek at her internship at JWM Productions as part of the Washington Semester Program at American University.
By Erika Woodward