Willen Sin is a student at Oregon State. He is majoring in Marketing and minoring in Asian studies. During fall term 2012, Willen studied abroad in Hong Kong, China through OSU: College of Business: Hong Kong, City University.

photo 2When I was in third grade, my dad was relocated to Singapore for two and a half years. He brought the whole family with him.  My father was a huge fan of traveling, so each break we would take family trips around Asia. We went to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, and Malaysia. Out of those places, I had a distant memory of Hong Kong. This memory motivated me to go back and relive Hong Kong as a young adult and remember this experience for years to come.  I also wanted to improve my language skills.  As a marketing and international business major, I wanted to be in an environment where I can strengthen my Cantonese and Mandarin speaking skills.  It is really hard to master a language unless you are in the environment 24/7 and are forced to use it. Little did I know, when I got there, I would gain valuable wisdom that I could have never imagined. photo 1

Students have a different attitude when they are abroad.  Everyone is open to meeting new people. Everyone is friendly, sincere, and genuinely interested in getting to know who you are and what your story is.  Due to the fact that the majority of the students are going to this new country blind in terms of what to expect, there is an instant connection that you make as you’re able to lean on one another for guidance.  During the first few weeks, you establish friendships that go a long way.  Many exchange students talk about meeting new people as one of the many advantages of going abroad, but for me, it is more than just meeting these people. The experience is about establishing relationships with the people you meet and broadening your network across the globe. Being in Hong Kong allowed me to meet people from The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Australia, India, Canada, and other countries.  Now if I am ever in want of these places, I will have a network of people that I can reach out to for assistance. Trust me; this makes your budget a lot more flexible.

photo 4Even if it is expensive, one thing you cannot miss out on while abroad is the ability to travel.  When I was in Hong Kong, I spent a lot of my time exploring different countries and new cultures.  I was fortunate enough to go to Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, China, and Taiwan. Each had its own individual culture and story to it. Obviously traveling can be fun, but one valuable lesson I learned was how large this world is and how small I am. There is so much going on around this world at one time; it is hard to learn and know everything. The best you can do is try to engage, be aware, and do not be afraid to try new things.

Trying new things was a huge motto going into Hong Kong fosnaker the entire exchange group.  One gruesome and exciting story that comes to mind is when a group of us decided to try snake. Coming from all different countries, snakes was one of the animals many cultures do not eat. .  The shop had a few options: snake soup, snake wine, or snake blood with a twist.  To no one’s surprise, a majority of the group stuck with the snake soup, but there was one brave student that was all for the snake blood.  The twist was that you had to drink the blood fresh from the snake.  You can see the commotion brought quite the crowd from the streets of Hong Kong as pedestrians, students, and families all watched this amazing, yet face-quenching scene.

I will end with that.  You will hear this from everyone, but going abroad is one of the best times you will have in your life.  From the places you go, the people you meet, the things you learn, and the stories you will share, studying abroad is a great investment in your education and your future.

By Laura McMahon: Oregon State University student and IE3 Summer 2010 Scholarship Recipient interning with Sea Turtles 911 in China

Laura McMahon 3I’m Laura McMahon, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Oregon State University. I am interning with Sea Turtles 911, a non profit organization working to save sea turtles in the South China Sea around Hainan Island. I feel as if I have adapted to life in China quickly, even without knowing the language. I have gotten the chance to experience a way of life many never have the opportunity to experience. The floating village is filled with people practicing their traditional ways of life, while at the same time, there are some modern technologies that have been mixed in. It’s strange how two worlds can collide and yet seem to work perfectly. The other day a couple young boys used their traditional boat to row to our floating hospital for help changing a new cell phone’s language setting from English to Chinese.

Lately, we have been busy rehabbing 3 turtles we rescued from a fisherman who no longer had use for them. He couldn’t sell them because of their poor condition. We were called to visit this fisherman at his home in the floating village, where he let us take 6 of his turtles. We found these sick turtles either in dry buckets or floating in their enclosures, it was hard to see animals in that condition, but it also felt good to lend a hand. Our sea turtle hospital transformed into something that I imagine to be similar to a hectic army hospital. We administered fluids and cleaned them, all while hoping they would make it through the night. Sadly, by the end of the week, we were only able to save 3 of the six. During the first week, the turtles were not strong enough to lift their heads above water, which resulted in each turtle resting on a life jacket with a wet towel on their backs to keep them wet. It’s a sad sight to see sea turtles that are not strong enough to even pick their heads out of the water, but during their second week, they were able to float and lift their heads. Their recovery has been slow, but they have been making progress. Over the last couple weeks, they have progressed, so far! They can eat on their own and are capable of swimming! I can’t wait to one day be able to release them back into the wild where they belong.

Laura McMahon w/ turtlesFor so long, I have dreamed of going on an adventure of a lifetime, and living in China has been just that. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been; in five weeks, I have had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would get the chance to do. I have been able to rescue sea turtles, ride taxi boats and rickshaws, swim with whale sharks, meet locals, and teach others about sea turtle conservation. I am half way through my time here, and it has been great experience so far. I can’t wait to find out what the other half of my internship will include!

Visit the IE3 Blog to learn more about what other IE3 Global Internship students abroad are doing!