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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in January 2011

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at Howard University urging American students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities in China. It’s all part of President Obama’s “100,000 Strong Initiative” which aims to increase the number of students studying in China by making it more affordable through scholarships and programs. It was launched during President Obama’s 2009 trip to China, and unlike other initiatives, it relies solely on private-sector donations.

 

Michelle Obama speaking at Howard University last week

During her speech, the First Lady emphasized that “studying in countries like China is about so much more than just improving your own prospects in the global market. The fact is with every friendship you make and every bond of trust you establish you are shaping an image of America projected to the rest of the world.”

As someone who studied abroad in Hong Kong, I fully support this initiative because studying abroad is the most humbling, life-changing experience. In fact, I urge college students to take advantage of these opportunities to study abroad in China – or anywhere in the world. You will not regret it.

Sometimes, it’s hard to explain in words how much my life – and world perspective – changed after studying abroad. Yet I’ve come up with a few things that I learned during and after my experience:

1. Living in a city is different than visiting.
When you live in a city for an extended period of time, it’s a completely different experience than being a tourist for a few days. Living in a city forces you to mingle with the local people – in restaurants, marketplaces, riding the MTR or public transportation, and school. When this happens, you learn about their culture, mannerisms, values and language. For me, riding the MTR every single day was one of the greatest learning experiences for me. I observed and listened to the Hong Kong people, and after a while, I began to blend in with them. You don’t get to experience this as a tourist.

2. You develop a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude.
When you live in Asia, you witness all levels of living conditions from rural villages to metropolitan cities. I was given the opportunity to teach English in Zengcheng, China (see post here), backpack throughout Vietnam and Cambodia (post here), as well as visit thriving cities such as Seoul and Shanghai. When you travel to these cities, you develop a deep sense of appreciation for everything you have in America: freedom, democracy, a stable government, education, and endless opportunities to follow your aspirations and dreams. After witnessing some rural conditions, especially in Cambodia, it made me reflect on these simple freedoms that I took for granted beforehand.

3. China is now a major focus of the world – and the future.
China is a country filled with opportunity and adventure, especially now because it is a major focus of the world. Companies are moving to China while others are growing exponentially, the economy is booming, and opportunities are plentiful. By studying abroad in China, you can experience firsthand what it’s like to live there, and you can immerse yourself in this pool of opportunity.

4. Mandarin is the world’s most spoken language.
More people in the world speak Mandarin Chinese than any other language. English is the second most spoken language. While in college, I noticed that more and more students were enrolling in Mandarin classes, especially those from the USC Marshall School of Business.

5. Learning a new language can be beneficial for your job hunt after college.
What better way to learn another language than living in a city where it is spoken all around you? Textbooks and classrooms can only teach you so much. Using the language on a daily basis is KEY to becoming conversational and fluent. When you learn a new language, you become that much more multi-dimensional. It looks great on job applications.

6. Our world is becoming increasingly inter-connected.
With the internet and social media as powerful forces, our world is becoming increasingly “smaller and smaller” (not literally, but figuratively speaking). People are now connected more than ever, news travels fast, businesses and companies are working together overseas, and the need for people with international experience is a plus. When I was abroad, I met so many European and Americans living in Hong Kong with various companies. They all told me it was important to immerse yourself in the growing global economy. Studying abroad is one way to do this, so take advantage of these opportunities while you’re young!

7. You learn to become independent.
When I reflect on my time abroad, I think the biggest transformation was becoming more independent. A more independent thinker, decision-maker, and person overall. I will forever be grateful for this experience. When I left Los Angeles for Hong Kong, I didn’t know anybody. I had never lived anywhere else besides LA, and that is all I ever knew. I was going into unchartered territories. But when you’re living in a new city, you’re forced to make your own decisions. You have to ask for directions on the MTR. You have to ask taxi drivers to take you to your next destination. You have to order food at local restaurants, and ask others for good recommendations. It opens your mind and soul to your own personal capabilities, and it brings out the best of YOU.

8. You make lifelong friends and share a special bond.
I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for meeting the most incredible group of friends in Hong Kong. My experience wouldn’t be half as wonderful had I not met these people. We explored the city together, ate together, traveled around Asia together, and had unforgettable memories. You form a special bond with these people that nobody will understand because it is an experience that only you went through. Even after this experience, we share memories and get together as much as possible. We will forever share a very special bond that cannot be explained in words.

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Can you believe it’s already 2011? The holidays passed by so quickly, but they were filled with good times, good food, and good laughter as always. This year, I was the designated “family holiday card designer”, so I created a collage with some of our travel photos from this past year. We did quite a bit of traveling: my younger sister Danielle volunteered in orphanages and schools in Burma and Thailand over the summer, my other sister Dayna worked in a medical clinic in Honduras, and my older sister went all around Costa Rica. It was a snippet of our year in review!

Hopefully everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season. December updates are coming soon….but for now, a holiday card from my family to yours!

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Today, 23 years ago, I was born in a hospital on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. Flash forward more than two decades, and here I am, ready for yet another phase in my life. The past year was by far the most exciting times of my life. It was filled with adventures and changes, self-discoveries and enlightening moments.

As I continue to grow and move into the next phase of my life, it is filled with many uncertainties and unknowns – a stark difference from last year. Where will my career endeavors take me? Where will I be in one year? For the first time in my life, I simply do not have an answer. But I do not take this as a negative. I look at it as an opportunity. I am excited for what my 23rd year has in store. After all, the adventures that I experienced this past year were unbeknown to me as I sat here…one year ago.

Baby Lauren

With that being said, here are some highlights from the past year. Usually, around the New Year, you’ll see newspaper and television pieces that are all along the lines of “A Look Back at 2009” or “2009 Year Review.” Well, here’s my 22nd year review!

August 2009
I said my last goodbyes to everyone at home, and flew halfway across the world to Hong Kong. We also traveled to Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand and had a wonderful time! After this trip, I settled into my new dorm in Xuesi Hall at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where I would spend the remainder of the year!

Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong

Riding elephants in Thailand

My exchange school, the Chinese University of Hong Kong

September
Soon after arriving at my university, I met some of the most amazing people who would become my “second family” in Hong Kong. We spent so much time together eating, exploring and traveling around Asia. One of our first trips was to Seoul, South Korea and we had the best time!

October
Celebrated Halloween in Hong Kong with my “second family.” Traveled to Thailand with this same group of people and had a wonderful time.

We still had to dress up in Hong Kong!

On the beaches of Pattaya, Thailand

The Temple of Dawn in Bangkok, Thailand

November
The traditional American holiday, Thanksgiving, could not be forgotten – no matter how many miles away from home! We also went to Taipei and ate lots of delicious food and enjoyed the nightlife!

Our Thanksgiving dinner

Taipei

December
An action-packed month of traveling for me! As you all know, I went backpacking in Vietnam and Cambodia, then engulfed on a journey throughout China with my family!

Angkor Archeological Park in Cambodia

Vietnam

Bird's Nest in Beijing

January
We rang in the new year in Hong Kong. My sisters and I were on the outside level of the IFC building (located on the Hong Kong Island side), and saw the fireworks as they were blasted off the top of the building. This month, I also said a tearful goodbye to Hong Kong – a place I now call my second home.

New Years Eve at the IFC Building

My last night in Hong Kong

February
Well, during this month I got back into the swing of things at school as I finished my final semester!

March
Spent my last Spring Break with my three friends on a cruise to Mexico. We went to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta!

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Mazatlan, Mexico

April
Finished producing a 20 minute documentary with two other USC students. Our documentary was based on the dog rescue efforts of Bonnie Sheehan from Hearts for Hounds, based in Long Beach, California and Seaaca Animal Shelter in Downey, California. Also met my journalistic hero, Lisa Ling.

My roommate Kristina, Lisa Ling, and me

May
I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor business entrepreneurship.

June
I worked on my resume reel almost the entire month of June. A reel is what i’m going to be sending out to TV news stations in hopes of getting a job! It’s a highlight of all of my past work in reporting.

July
It was my cousin’s wedding in Seattle, so I made a stop in Vancouver earlier to visit my study abroad friend Brenda!

Downtown Vancouver on Canada Day (July 1st)

August 2010
Celebrated my 23rd birthday! Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes.

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