Nanjing Univeristy Exchange
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Erin Flannery

Major: Chinese
Minor: Security Risk Analysis
Hometown: Garnet Valley, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about my experience from the Career Enrichment Network in the College of Liberal Arts. I met with the Coordinator of Global Programs in the fall semester, and she let me know about the different embedded courses running in the spring semester. She also explained what an embedded course is and how affordable this option can be.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I was a part of a cultural exchange between Penn State and Nanjing University in China. For the cultural exchange, I was enrolled in an embedded course and was then accepted by the professor to visit Nanjing for two weeks immediately following the end of the semester. I traveled with my professor, a graduate student in the department of Asian Studies and a group of 14 other students from the class. Each of the students from Penn State was assigned two partner students from NJU. Together, we visited some sights around the city and attended our partner's classes. The PSU students also enrolled in a one credit class with our professor.

How did this experience impact you academically?

As a Chinese major, this experience really helped me improve both my Chinese language skills and cultural understanding. Since I had only studied Chinese for one year before this trip, I was nervous that I would not be able to interact with the Nanjing University students, or function independently. However, being immersed in the language was an amazing experience, and I saw great improvements in a short amount of time. Our close personal interaction with Chinese peers, coupled with our one credit class that served to overview and debrief these interactions, cemented new cultural understandings that are very valuable to me. Even students who were not studying Chinese felt as though they took away important lessons about Asian culture and cultural exchange.

Being immersed in the language was an amazing experience, and I saw great improvements in a short amount of time.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Because I traveled to Nanjing the summer following my freshman year at Penn State, I feel as though it really helped me narrow down my future career goals. After visiting some well-known graduate schools located in Nanjing, I both had a better understanding of international graduate programs and a greater desire to purse specific certifications. Moreover, this trip confirmed my aspiration to live and work in Asia after graduation. I had the opportunity to talk we many different professors who shared their knowledge of international fellowships and related programs. On the other hand, the trip highlighted some professional outlets that are not as well suited to my goals. I am now confident that I am more interested in corporate careers than those in academia.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

While this specific embedded program is only running for one more year, I strongly recommend that all students at Penn State become aware of embedded trips in their professional fields. Embedded courses are a unique and affordable way to go abroad that you can help you get some experience before spending a summer or semester abroad.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

Through the Paterno Fellows Program, I was able to secure additional funding for my trip in addition to an award from the College of Liberal Arts. Though the embedded program had already secured some funding, resources from both the College of Liberal Arts and Paterno Fellows Program made this trip even more affordable for my family. I also felt more supported throughout the entire process. Many other students on the trip were also aspiring fellows, and traveling in this community was both comforting and fun. Moreover, many of my peers on the trip received similar support to the fellowship program, and took advantages of additional resources.


For more on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website. 
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