Alumni Spotlight: John Pirenne

Why did you decide to study abroad with Go Abroad China?

John Pirenne, Go Abroad China alum

John: Before making a decision, I browsed many internship agencies in order to look for one in China. My decision to pick Go Abroad China above others was quite easy to make. In fact, even though there are plenty of programs promoting good experiences and promising to have an unforgettable adventure in the other side of the world, I have to admit that GAC was the best.

First of all, the staff was very responding, and they helped me a lot to answer my inquiries and small concerns. It is amazing how we kept going back and forth with e-mails for a couple of months. I did not want to go through a terrible experience that would add nothing to my life’s journey so I needed to make sure they were trustworthy and not just about marketing, it should maintain it's promises and the programs displayed on the website are real. This is a step I think everyone needs to check before immersing oneself into the unknown.

However, I could feel it was an encouraging program; They were very professional, helpful and very kind. These are key components for me to make a first move.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

John: My experience in China lived up to my expectation and even went beyond. There are many things that made the whole experience unique. It goes without saying, being comfortable within the host family is crucial. I mean, if you can’t feel at home, then it would be very intense all the time but I think I was so lucky. Maybe I was more than fortunate to live with such a great family. We spent some time together, did a lot of things I haven’t done before; I got immersed into the Chinese culture, enjoyed authentic food and most importantly, I got exposed the hospitality of a Chinese family.

In addition, I met many people and thanks to the GAC staff, my life was so much easier to get around Beijing and know where to shop, where to eat and how to get used to the subway which is so convenient. Furthermore, I made new friendships and I met so many interesting people, my social life there was exceptional, it was very special and I had no time to stick to my computer screen due to my busy schedule and parties!

Similarly, the GAC activities as well were a good break and nice occasion where we could all meet. The dinners we had were really good and the staff were down to earth. Zoe and Maria were helpful too, they knew the place and they helped us finding good shopping markets, fine restaurants, etc. and quickly respond to any questions and we did not hesitate to contact them whenever we needed to. We even hung out all together from time to time. I am really grateful! It was amazing time.

How has this experience impacted your future?

John: My experience in China was just perfect, I did not expect it to be so enriching. It impacted me on different levels; as an individual; it just made me realize how different cultures are and how we should respect our differences, there is no superior or right and wrong cultures, we just need to accept these values and traditions that took years to be formed. I feel like I grew up a little bit more after the month I spent in Beijing, taking the subway every day to work made me notice that this world is a puzzle and every country makes it's pieces and there are many things I witnessed that made me thoughtful about world-issues and many inspiring ideas come to my mind, it is just hard to explain, but I can certainly say that I bring back some cultural awareness and respect for every nation and culture.

Also, not being able to speak Chinese or hold a simple conversation was a wake-up call for language learning. I come to realize we need foreign languages they are always useful, the world is more connected than ever and knowing two or three languages is the minimum to do if we want to secure a job or even to be able to travel. We don’t have to assume people around the globe must speak English even if it is the common business and technological languages, we still need others.

After I got lost in China and after I had my private lessons; I just started to think to enroll in Chinese class not only because I found obstacles to find my way back home or to ask for a place’s address but rather to keep up with the world’s change, China is a developing country and the future is lying on the horizon, we need some language weapon to be ready for the war! (I am exaggerating here, but you know what I mean… we must always have the tools for future) so this is my plan for the future.

Professionally, I start to think about any job offer in China, I can’t say it is easy to enter the job market there but rather consider Asian cities which are rising, I would not mind if I can find a job within a corporation that operates in china, I am really open to Asia listings if I get the chance. Other than that, I am sure I would make another trip back to China; I would love to see Shanghai or Hong Kong.