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Eunice Shek

IES Abroad Programs: Nagoya Direct Enrollment - Nanzan University, Fall 2016 & Dublin - Writers Program, Spring 2017
U.S. College / University: Knox College
Major: Asian Studies, Creative Writing

What words would you use to describe your identity(ies)? 
I would describe myself as a mixed Chinese/Caucasian-American, cisgendered, demiromantic woman with creative interests.

What motivated you to choose to study abroad?
Studying abroad has been an interest of mine for a long time, as I love learning new languages, experiencing new cultures, and immersing myself in places outside of the United States. As a college student interested in the creative arts, as well as translation, the opportunity to study abroad became invaluable—not just because of the experiences I could use in my writing, but also because of the firsthand language and cultural knowledge I would gain while abroad.

When you studied abroad, did your identity(ies) influence your experience in significant and/or surprising ways? If so, how?
While abroad, I would say that the identities that came into play the most were my ethnicity and nationality. While in Japan, my somewhat Asian physical appearance allowed me to blend in, though my foreign status and language ability would make themselves apparent whenever I spoke. Still, I appreciated the opportunity to pass and introduce myself in my own way, because I broke the stereotypes people had of Americans and my language abilities allowed me to meet other Chinese/Taiwanese people living and working in Japan. Because of that, by the time I left Japan, I'd also grown proud of my own Chinese heritage.

In Ireland, my Asian heritage and study abroad experience came into play again, not so much because people assumed that I wasn't American (my nationality wasn't questioned—it actually became a good icebreaker when I spoke with Irish people), but because a lot of my time was spent synthesizing the similarities and differences among the three-ish cultures I was interacting with at the time: Irish, American, and Japanese (and to some extent, Chinese). The question I realized I was asking myself was "What is universal among these peoples?", and it's a question I'm still working on answering even now, but in doing so, I've found that I've started thinking about the world in a more interconnected way.

Has studying abroad impacted your educational and/or professional aspirations or path? If so, how?
Studying abroad has definitely reinforced my desire to work in a diverse and multicultural setting, and I'd love to be able to travel or live abroad as part of my career. I still want to become a translator, though I feel that my path to getting there has more options to choose from now.

What experiences or skills gained from studying abroad continue to influence your life now? 
I've developed a greater appreciation for understanding the context of various historical situations that influence contemporary current events, and I try harder to understand all sides of a story, not just one perspective. The languages that I studied while abroad still continue to be integral to my personal goals and interests, as well as the strategies I learned from meeting new people in different cultural contexts. Overall, I would say that I've become a more flexibly-minded person, and I hope to continue to develop a more international worldview in the future.

In one sentence, tell students who identify similarly why studying abroad is a good idea, particularly for them. 
It can be challenging to get out of your comfort zone, experience new cultures and worldviews and shift your own perspective of the world, society, and life in general, but it's all worth it--and the experiences you'll have afterward are stories you'll be telling for years afterward. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
It can be daunting to face the study abroad process, and it may feel like there are a lot of roadblocks and obstacles to overcome, but it's possible to do so. There are more and more opportunities to go abroad and resources to help you get there--so don't give up! All the work you put in will pay off!

Want to find out more about Eunice? Read about how she examined her identity while abroad.


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"It can be challenging to get out of your comfort zone, experience new cultures and worldviews and shift your own perspective of the world, society, and life in general, but it's all worth it." 

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