Beijing Foreign Studies University

Name: Rija Saleem   |   Country: China   |   Date: Fall/Winter/Year Long, 2017

Related Experience: Beijing Foreign Studies University: Summer School

Rija Saleem
Winters Beyond Borders Program at Sookmyung University

As an aspiring educator, I was able to gain teaching experience in Beijing, helping me become a better teacher, and learn about the field of education. Personally, I became a more adaptable, open-minded, optimistic and happy person. Going abroad helped me truly understand that the world is infinite – there are more opportunities out there that I can ever imagine, and they are all attainable, so long as I try! I was able to see what “life” means to people around the world, delve into foreign cultures and make lasting international friendships.

Going abroad helped me gain independence, develop interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills

Academically and professionally, I gained experience in a field relevant to my studies

It gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons, gain perspective by learning about different ways people live life, and broaden my horizons to the infinite possibilities out in the world. I am an aspiring teacher; in Beijing, I was able to independently teach 8 classes (Grades 4-6), for 4 months (something I can’t do in Toronto/Canada), giving me precious academic and professional experience.

A key challenge was language barriers/ navigating a new culture. Being in Beijing, I initially struggled adapting to the lack of English – it was hard to do daily tasks, such as ordering breakfast or getting a taxi. Luckily, one of the lovely girls I went on exchange with was fluent in Mandarin, and helped us out. Nonetheless, one way I overcame the language barrier/ culture shock was simply giving myself time and space. I realized it will take time to acclimate to the new environment, so I tried very hard not to be frustrated, rather be patient and almost enough the experience of culture shock/ language barriers – it helped me become stronger after all!

Rija Saleem
Rija Saleem

Another challenge I faced was adjusting to being away from friends and family. To be quite honest, this was more of a minuscule challenge. For most of the exchange, I was too busy having a great time/ enjoying myself to remember home (oops, sorry Dad). But, the times where I did feel homesick, it hit hard. Thankfully, my friends and family were only a quick WhatsApp message away. Usually a short phone call, or chat would help me feel better. And whenever I did talk to my friends/family back home, I would share stories from my exchange and instantly recharge. Remembering that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that the days I have on my exchange are finite and I should cherish every single one, instantly picked me up and made me happy, not sad, to be abroad/away from home.

In a snapshot, going abroad helped me grow – as a human, student and global citizen.

Learning abroad is easily the best thing I ever did in my undergraduate/young adult
years. Doing an exchange helped me gain perspective, grow as a human, gave me a wealth of life experiences and fun stories to share. Learning abroad is an experience like no others, it easily changes your life and pushes you to learn/ develop in ways you could never imagine!

Rija Saleem