Alumni Spotlight: Adeline Tao


Adeline is a third-year college student in New Jersey with a major in Communication Arts/concentration journalism and a minor in East Asian Studies. In the summer of 2017, she studied abroad in Shanghai, China for one month.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I wanted to experience my Chinese roots in a different way. Being Chinese-American, all of my relatives are still in China and I visited them many times growing up. However, I never studied there on my own.

This past year was full of tumultuous political tension in the United States, and I personally felt lost about what my identity meant to me. So, I decided I needed to go do some soul-searching and find out who I really was.

What did your university assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My college helped clarify all of the paperwork that needed to be done, fees that needed to be paid, and deadlines that needed to be met. After that, it was all me who had to fill everything out. At the end, my school organized everything and sent me on my way.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open-minded. Especially going from a Western culture to a non-Western culture, things are going to be very very different in China than the U.S.

I have particular pride in many Chinese things, so being positive about change is what will help you get through culture-shock.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day in Shanghai is probably your best day ever. Coming from a small town, living in a big city was like a dream.

I had class but in a Chinese university, with Chinese classmates and delicious Chinese cafeteria food. Then for the rest of the day, I was able to explore the city - from the unassuming but amazing restaurants next-door, to ornate temples, to a ginormous mall nearby. There is always something fun to do in Shanghai.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that I did not know what was going to happen. This was my first time studying abroad, and I was scared.

Was I going to change? Was I going to hate it? Was I going to become more lost than I was before? But a wise man once told me that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I was scared of the unknown, but what good was that going to do for me?

Once I got into my new rhythm, I was able to relax and appreciate all the beautiful things that were happening to me. Studying abroad let me find myself when I was the most lost. Being scared was the best thing to feel at first, because when I wasn't anymore - everything felt perfect.

Why should I study abroad? What's wrong with staying in the US or at home?

You should study abroad because you will gain unparalleled and essential perspective on life. You are a human along with every other human living collectively on this Earth. We are much smaller than we think we are, on a world much bigger than we know.

Staying in your comfort zone is, well, comforting. But even that gets boring, frustrating. I had to struggle with that feeling in the United States. I saw many flaws that I just couldn't overlook anymore, so I had to leave where I found happiness somewhere else.

This isn't me telling you that America is awful. What I actually learned is that China is flawed too. And that's my point: nowhere is "perfect." But you get to learn that that is okay. There is also beauty everywhere. America, China, where ever - you get to make your own definition of "perfect."