Kenneth Niemeyer learns about China with classmates

Kenneth Niemeyer spent the 2018-19 academic year in Shanghai.

I most enjoyed the experience of being totally immersed in a culture that I initially perceived as completely different from my own. Through in-depth conversions with my local roommate and coworkers I came to understand that the things we have in common vastly outnumber our differences. Learning about what cultural histories influence the beliefs and actions of my Chinese peers was an educational and enjoyable experience. And of course it was enjoyable that these lessons could be learned through fun activities like going out to eat with my Chinese friends or going on fantastic cultural walks that took me into lesser known parts of Shanghai which are rich with history and beauty.

Some of the most memorable experiences that I had were during the trips that I took to other parts of China. Going to cities like Chengdu, Xi’an, and Beijing helped me understand that China is as diverse in environment and culture as the U.S. Doing these trips with friends also taught the value of sharing travel experiences with others. Before my time in China I was much more accustomed to traveling solo but seeing awe-inspiring locations such as the Great Wall and Zhangjiajie mountains were made so much better by doing so with friends. Overall, the most enjoyable experiences that I had in China were all about socializing with others, something that I often avoided in the U.S. Being in China allowed me to exit my social safety bubble and understand better the value of socializing. 

One of my proudest accomplishments while studying in China was guest lecturing for a class of Chinese college students at Fudan University. I was granted this great opportunity by one of my professors from the fall semester. He invited me to speak to his cultural communications class about experiencing culture shock. I prepared a PPT and gave a nearly 25-minute lecture/talk about my personal experiences with culture shock coming to Shanghai. Not only was this a great step outside of things I am used to doing, but it also allowed me to reflect on my entire academic year in Shanghai and think of some of the barriers that I was able to overcome.

I have already used the internship experience I gaind in China to find a job for after graduation. All of the interviews I've had have asked me about my time in China and what sorts of challenges I had to overcome there. I also hope to pursue a graduate degree in the future and I am sure that studying in China for an academic year will give my application a boost.