William "Bo" Brandt
Major: Business Administration
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Study Abroad Program: IES: Shanghai
The Phillips Ambassador Scholarship provides financial support for students studying abroad in Asia. While this scholarship might be an incentive for some students, I knew from the start that I wanted to go to China. I wanted to go to China to not only travel and improve my Chinese, but also learn more about its amazing economic growth. However, not many people have the same desires as me. They see China as foreign and distant land that presents more challenges than adventures. I am here to tell you that even though China presents cultural and language barriers, I believe it is the best and most interesting place to study abroad.
With the financial support of the Phillips Ambassador Scholarship, which I cannot thank Ambassador Phillips and his wife enough, I was truly able to explore China’s wide variety of landscapes. I ended up traveling to 10 different places, such as Huangshan, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Hainan. These locations were all very different, ranging from the snowy mountains in Huangshan to the sunny beaches in Sanya, as well as spanning from the historical sites in Beijing to the westernized skyscrapers in Hong Kong. Through this travel I was able to integrate myself with the China’s culture, experience new things, and have some of the greatest adventures of my life.
Partaking in a study abroad program with no other UNC students was very nerve-wracking and made me uncertain about how much I would travel and where I would go. I figured I would make the usual trips to Hong Kong and Beijing, but I never perceived that I might sleep in the gardens of Suzhou, take a chair lift to the top of Purple Mountain in Nanjing, or ride motorcycles through the streets of Sanya. However, now that I have travelled extensively, I know how easy and straight forward it can be. Even though my wallet is far smaller after all these trips, I am positive I made the right decision to travel because of the amazing memories and adventures I experienced. Whether it was illegally hoping on to a train bound for Suzhou or bungy jumping off the highest bungy in the world in Macau, I have experiences that before I would never have imagined.
What I learned in China is very similar to a Daoist ideology, “go with the flow.” In China, where you never really know what to expect, plans change instantaneously and new ideas take its place. Deciding to rent motorcycles, buy a tent (even though the plan to camp out continually failed), or fly to an island off the coast of China, my friends and I just went and asked questions later. The questions of how much, where are we staying, and what are we going to do, were never asked until the moment we needed an answer. We did not want to restrict or second guess are gut decisions to just go and explore.
As a college student with seemingly endless opportunities in front of you, I encourage everyone to study abroad. While I would highly recommend China over any other country, I believe any study abroad is worth it. There are certainly financial burdens that come with study abroad, but with programs such as the Phillips Ambassadors, your worries can be eased. However before you decided which country to study abroad in just remember that “the 21st century belongs to Asia and to me, studying abroad is not a question- it is the answer” (Ambassador Phillips). You will not regret going to China for it is an amazing place to explore a unique country, challenge your preconceived cultural nuisances, and interact with fascinating people. So think Asia and more importantly go to Asia!