Hello From the Other Side of the World

BY: VIRGINIA CRUZ-AYALA

If you were to ask people what they would do if given unlimited resources, you’d find a good majority would say they would like to travel the world. It sounds cliché, but to visit different countries and experience various cultures is what many aspire to do… myself included.

After long talks with my academic advisor and countless hours of research, it was finally time to apply for the opportunity of a lifetime– the chance to visit China. This was not a regular study abroad program but instead an all expense paid trip to University of Delaware’s partner university, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

When I first applied to this program, I was under the impression the other students would also be American. Well, I was wrong. When I arrived at the airport in Chengdu I was welcomed by two SWUFE students with a list of everyone that would be arriving for the program that day: ninety-five students studying at forty-eight universities from thirty-four countries. I suddenly realized this was the most diverse group of people I would ever surround myself with.
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Our days began with an early morning breakfast, followed by lectures on topics ranging from global entrepreneurship to Chinese politics. When learning hours were over, we would participate in cultural activities around Chengdu before returning to the hotel—our home away from home.

For these two amazing weeks, not only did I immerse myself in Chinese culture, cuisine, and customs, I was doing it alongside new friends traveling from different cultures themselves. We laughed about the slang in our specific language and how it translates to English. The British irked the Americans about this year’s election. We joked back about Brexit. Every interaction was a cultural exchange. Every day was a different adventure.

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We visited a Panda base, hiked a mountain, watched the opera, bargained at markets in our broken mandarin, sang our hearts out during karaoke, and cooked with a professional chef. There was so much living packed into just two weeks that it felt as if I had been there for months.
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It was the most culturally rich, intrinsically fulfilling experience of my life. I would love for more UD students to continue attending this program. I have to thank Jennifer Gregan for being the amazing advisor that she is and the University of Delaware for providing me with resources to build myself into the individual and professional I aspire to become.

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Virginia Cruz-Ayala is an International Business/Marketing double major with an Italian minor. She was originally born in the Dominican Republic but moved to Kearny, NJ about 8 years ago. If anyone would like more information about the Discover SWUFE international program, you can contact her via email at vcruz@udel.edu.

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