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Interview with Bao Thao

Tell us about yourself: 
I am a 4th year studying Political Science, and the eldest out of seven children. As the eldest, I was also the first one to travel abroad, and that was due to my study abroad experience. I love to explore cultures, languages, and how other political systems function. In a sense, I want to find my own philosophy about culture and language; I have a need to analyze it, discuss it, and discover when difference will be appreciated.

When and where did you study abroad?
I studied abroad in South Korea in the spring of 2014. I was able to travel early and stayed a little bit longer after my program ended.

How did you prepare for your study abroad experience?
In the beginning due to my long winter break before I departed to South Korea, I tried learning the alphabet but didn't grasp the whole concept of it until I took the language course at the University. Other than that, because I traveled early to South Korea before my program started, one of my Korean friends picked me up from the airport and taught me all the basic forms of transportation and culture greetings before I departed to the University site. I was helped immensely from my Korean Unnie (older sisters) that made my transition to South Korea more comfortable than ever.

What were your fears before going abroad?
My biggest fear before going abroad was getting lost. As much as I wanted to travel to a country where English was not the first English, I was hesitant in finding my way around the country since I only knew a few Korean words, phrases and did not know how to read at all before I got there. Surprisingly, although English was a second language for South Korea, they had a lot of English words listed on public transportation that benefited me greatly until I was able to read Korean.

How did your study abroad experience go?
My study abroad experience was amazing. As an exchange student I was able to meet and form relationships with people from all over the world that I would not have made if I didn't study abroad. I got a sense of their culture and heard beautiful languages spoken. When I heard others spoke their native tongue and I couldn't understand, I was not frustrated but rather impressed, because I grew up with 2 cultures and 2 languages in America. Simply, I was with people who are in the same shoes that I have been it. Moreover, although we all came from different backgrounds with different languages and cultures, I was able to find the similarities despite the differences. Yeah, we're different but there are also some similarities as well. It comes down to appreciating one another regardless of the differences because in the end, we're all human beings.

How did you benefit from studying abroad?
I came to appreciate other's way of life and upbringing. I also became more patient, you sort of develop that sense of patience since you're a foreigner in the country. In South Korea most people won't speak English and you may or will be frustrated but it makes you think outside the box. For example, I found new ways to communicate, either if that was through my broken Korean or their broken English. It was really fun, because from both ends of the party we were trying out best when we didn't know each other's language that well.

Did you have any advice for other students who are thinking of studying abroad?
Any advice I would have for students who are thinking of studying abroad is to do it! It may be uncomfortable at first but I believe throughout life we'll all be uncomfortable and afraid. For example, our first day on a new job, of course we'll be uncomfortable and afraid but over time you gradually learn how to adapt, adjust to the environment and learn from the job. Going abroad is quite similar and it'll definitely help you grow as a better person. If I had the chance again, I'll definitely take the opportunity to study abroad once more.