Soumia Arif, Summer of 2015 at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

What do you study at King’s?
Geography BA

Where did your Global Summer Experience take place?
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

How did your Global Summer Experience influence you?

My time in China shaped me into becoming a more open-minded individual. I learnt very early on that things that were done differently, were just that: different, not necessarily wrong. It was appreciating this and broadening my perspective that I in turn learnt so much more about Chinese culture and cultural appropriation in general. My Global Summer Experience influenced me to embrace unfamiliar things with even more enthusiasm and optimism than a previously had!

What skills do you think you gained from your Global Summer Experience?

My summer experience was instrumental in teaching me so many new skills; from something as obvious as grasping a few words of Chinese, to competently eating with chopsticks, I feel like I learnt something new each day. Skills that I already had were strengthened, whilst the new and challenging environment provided an environment for me to allow my self-development to thrive. Everyday interpersonal skills were improved tenfold, especially when you become reliant on forming relationships by taking extra time to break down barriers of language and misunderstanding. Transferable skills like this have helped me in a lot of situations since returning and, I believe, have made me both a better independent worker and team player.

How did you apply?

I attended an information event during second semester where a presentation was given about applying for single semester study abroad for the next academic year. Initially I had never considered applying for the summer programme, however we were informed that the deadline for applications was in fact that day. I went home, had a look and decided to apply! I applied via the online application portal and heard back relatively soon after about my application being successful. I then completed a secondary application with Shanghai Jiao Tong University itself, where I submitted a letter of motivation, specified the modules I was most interested in and organised accommodation.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced on your Global Summer Experience? How did you overcome it? 

The biggest and most challenging thing that I faced whilst in China was completely unexpected. At first I had thought it would be most likely be the language or culture that created barriers, but to my surprise this was not the case at all! On my arrival I was directed to my room and was met by quite a strange smell and level of cleanliness I wasn’t used to. Initially my gut reaction was to head back to the airport but reflecting in hindsight, I am so glad that I dealt with the issue differently. I contacted the facilities manager at the accommodation where I was staying, as well as the course convenor and the Study abroad office at King’s. After some persistence, a lot of patience and even more help from Google translate, the facilities manager organised to have my room thoroughly cleaned and for me to have an alternative room for the time being.

In the moment the situation seemed a thousand times worse than when I look back on it now; being jetlagged, in a state of culture shock and not knowing who to speak to and what to do definitely exaggerated the severity of the situation in my mind. I constantly tried to reassure myself by putting things into perspective and recognising that accommodation was only one aspect of the experience. I focussed all of the amazing opportunities that would be offered to me whilst in China and the prospect of these helped motivate me to look past the present moment. What was the highlight of your Global Summer Experience?                             

Immersing myself in Chinese culture has to rank as the highlight of my time in China. Far less people spoke English compared to what I had initially expected, which as a result encouraged me to learn as much of the language as I could. It is common for so many places to almost feel homogeneous, boasting the same high street stores as the next country; this is something that China was definitely an exception to, which I loved! Not only was I amazed and intrigued by my new surroundings and the people I was meeting, but they also reciprocated this interest and were so enthusiastic to learn about my culture and values. I found these interactions so enriching, I was made to feel at home somewhere so far from home and that in itself made the whole experience what it was!

What advice would you give to others considering a Global Summer Experience?

Global Summer Experiences are such an amazing opportunity, they give you the chance to experience a completely different culture to your own for a short while. If you are considering studying abroad for a semester or the year, going on a summer experience would give you an ideal insight into studying abroad for a period before the semester itself. Research the destinations that are available to you and choose somewhere that really appeals to you, so that when you get there you are open to the opportunities that present themselves. Other than that, the most important thing is to accept the adventure and make the most of it; it really is a journey of a lifetime!


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