Study Abroad: A Never-Ending Conversation

By Kate Broderick, Global Strategic Communication ’13

So you may have heard me mention my previous study abroad experiences with Humanities and Communication a time or two (or three or four or five). While it has been nine long months since my last jet-setting experience to the Netherlands and Taiwan, the next cycle of adventures is about to unfold. In only six weeks, our next batch of worldly travelers are set to depart to study Global Strategic Communication in the Netherlands. I, on the other hand, will be here, hosting my own world traveler, my best friend Ivy.

I met Ivy last year during my studies at Tunghai University (THU) in Taiwan. I was in Taiwan for three weeks to study Chinese language and Taiwanese culture as part of a study abroad opportunity from the Department of Humanities and Communication. Ivy will be staying with me for the next six weeks to practice her English and study American culture. I think my American friends are slightly baffled by my close connection with Ivy. “I don’t understand,” my American friend said. “You only knew her for three weeks. How can she really be your best friend?”

In this world full of seven billion people, it can sometimes feel cluttered and busy. We get settled and comfortable in our own little corner of the world and forget that there is a whole world of people out there.  This is why I am a major advocate of Study Abroad Programs. You are pulled from your predicable comfort zone and have the opportunity to meet new people and build connections with friends you would have never had the chance to meet otherwise. That is exactly what happened with Ivy and me.

Ivy was my cultural guide through Taiwan. Knowing how to read about five words in Chinese, I needed a translator to help me with even the most basic processes, like buying a bottle of water at 7-11. A group of students from the West Coast was studying at THU at the same time. They were not as fortunate in their choice of guide—after meeting them the first day, their guide disappeared. Ivy, on the other hand, spent every waking hour with us, ensuring we saw the best of Taiwan and experienced “real” Taiwanese culture. I remember the first day she took us out to lunch and introduced us to our first green tea and kidney bean ice cream.  She brought us to her hometown, a lovely city in the south called Tainan, where we got to meet her family—including her grandmother, who made us homemade white gourd juice, a delicious concoction reminiscent of sweet tea. Ivy even woke up quite literally at the crack of dawn to help drill me in correct Chinese pronunciation before I had to give a presentation in Chinese. At the end of three weeks, Ivy was more than my translator. She had become my best friend and sister.

My study abroad experience in Taiwan lasted a short three weeks—but within these weeks, I experienced a lifetime of memories. Three weeks may not seem like a very long time, but it is more than enough time to change your world. While the study abroad experience may be less than a month, it is the beginning of a conversation that will last a lifetime.

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