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Erica’s Experience

Erica was eager to study abroad through Pamplin because she knew it would open the door to incredible experiences. 

“I viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world with no commitments but to study and learn about new cultures,” Erica said. “There are some things you can’t learn in the classroom!”

During the month-long China program, Erica immersed herself in Chinese culture, developing interpersonal skills along the way that she is confident will apply to the remainder of her college experience and her future career.

“Studying abroad through Pamplin enabled me to understand the heritage, history, and customs of a large group of people I will likely engage with in the workplace and the classroom — China holds roughly 20 percent of the world’s entire population!”

Erica notes that her study abroad experience widened her professional skill set in various other ways as well.

“I was in an environment that strengthened my communication skills, cultural awareness, self-reliance, and problem-solving. Furthering my abilities overseas granted me unique insights to apply both academically and professionally. I have found that my global perspective is more necessary than ever to bridge the gap between different people and to ultimately increase my professional marketability.”

Adjusting to an environment with a foreign language may seem daunting, but Erica didn’t let that hold her back. 

“I think trying to overcome the language barrier greatly improved my experience in China. I was given a unique opportunity to explore the world and wanted to maximize the benefits from it.” 

Before leaving for her trip, Erica practiced Mandarin by talking to fluent speakers and utilizing online language tutorials. She also created index cards of basic phrases to refer to as needed throughout the trip. 

“There are always moments of learning on the fly, especially as a student studying abroad in Asia. One challenge that stands out is regarding how to communicate with the locals when you don’t know their language very well. I needed to learn quickly how to do things on my own like ordering from a menu, riding a metro, and asking for directions when exploring different parts of China without my group’s translator.” 

Erica’s favorite memory of the trip came from the Summer Palace in Beijing, the world’s largest and most well-preserved royal park.

“Our tour group participated in a scavenger hunt and learned more about the rich history of the imperial sight. When the lavish royal garden was constructed in 1750, it was dedicated to the birthday ceremony of Emperor Qianlong’s mother! Being in the presence of such natural beauty and grandeur is something I’ll never forget…that, and the fact that I won a panda hat from the scavenger hunt.”

Key Advice From Erica on Studying Abroad

“If you’re hesitant about devoting an entire semester overseas or finding it difficult to fit into your academic plan, your advisor can help you look into Pamplin’s summer, winter, and spring short programs. In my experience, I was able to spend my first month of summer in China, before returning to Blacksburg, VA to begin my summer role as an Orientation Team Member. Best decision ever made!”

“Before leaving your family and friends to study abroad, create a list of names and addresses to send postcards to! I know this isn’t the conventional token of advice, but trust me, sending postcards to your loved ones is a great way to express your gratitude and reflect on your personal experience overseas.Many people appreciate that they are being thought of, and it is a pleasure to hold something that was once held by the sender. Mailing letters detailing your travels from your destination back to the States can include your loved ones in this unique journey and greatly enrich your overall experience. Everybody wins!”

After graduation, Erica plans to enter the consulting industry in the Risk Assurance or HR practice.

Article written by: Ali Monahan

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