After a 16-hour flight I’m back home in San Diego. My year abroad has been filled with adventure, challenges, friendships and so much more. There are so many things that I learned abroad that would have been difficult to learn if I never left home.

I learned the challenges of learning a new language, a whole new different way of living and getting out of my comfort zone to discover something new. There are many things I missed about home and now there are many things I miss about China.

I am already missing my friends that I met in China. Back in China they served as my family. Together we experienced new things, learned the language, adjusted to the culture, etc. I could never forget the friends that I met from around the world. Now I know that not only do I have a home in San Diego, but also in France, Sweden, India, Columbia, Indonesia and many other places. Of course I missed my family, friends and boyfriend in San Diego and I’m very happy to be home; but at the same time I will deeply miss my friends and home I made in China. No matter how many years pass by, I will never forget the friends I made abroad, and what their friendship means to me.

Now that I’m back home I have a different perspective about the way I live here. When I first arrived in China everything was new to me – the food, language, culture, etc. But has time went by, those things were no longer new or unusual to me, in fact they seemed normal. Upon arriving to the US there were many things that I never noticed before, such as our American accent, the dry weather, the many cars and wide roads.

Ever since I have come back, the most common question I have gotten from my family and friends is “Are you here (in San Diego) for good?” But the truth is I don’t think I’ll ever be here for good, now that I had a taste of this world, I want to be able to learn more about it. I especially want to travel the 50 states and Mexico in order to learn more about my culture and see the beautiful landscapes each country has to offer, just as I did with China.

Since I was studying Chinese for a year and not my major (biochemistry) I’ve developed an appreciation and understanding for those who did not have English or Spanish as their first language. This was my first time learning a language. I now understand the difficulties of learning a new language, but also how amazing it can be. Not only are you developing a different method of thinking, but also, as you continue to learn the language, you develop an understanding for the culture. For example, in the US when you leave a store people usually say “have a nice day” or “come back again” but in China they usually say 慢慢走 (màn màn zoŭ), which translates to “walk slowly” and “take your time”, since China is always in a hustle and bustle it’s their way of expressing to a person to enjoy their day.

Although it seems Chinese and biochemistry have no relation with each other, it is much more related than thought. In my case, I would like to work outside of the US in order to conduct research. After studying abroad, I feel capable to work in a diverse environment and places outside of the US to communicate science in the most effective way possible. Whatever you’re studying, traveling to a different country and learning their language and culture can help your profession and overall life.

I always want to remember this experience. Even though it may have been difficult at times I don’t regret any moment during my time abroad. This is one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It made me feel a sense of appreciation for my studies, home, the world, people and other things I may have taken for granted before.

There are many things that I can not express about studying abroad just through written words, which is why I encourage you all, if you still have not, to go and explore the world!

To those of you who are thinking about studying abroad in China, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to keep an open mind when you are traveling. Keep in mind that China is not the US, it’s China; learn how to adapt to the culture and experience your time abroad to the fullest!

I’d like to thank the Benjamin A. Gilman International Program, Scholars Without Borders, DUS Compact Scholars Program, Associated Students Study Abroad Program, Conrad Prebys, Harry E. Hamber Memorial Scholarship Program, and my advisors for making this experience possible.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog posts this past year. And thank you to SDSU Be International for giving me this opportunity to share my experience with you all!

All the best!

Sara Torres-RoblesSara Torres-Robles is earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at San Diego State University. She is blogged from Xiamen, China for the 2015-2016 academic year.

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