Senior Hannah Annarelli studied abroad this summer, from June 21 to Aug. 5, at East China Normal University in the Putuo district of Shanghai, China.
The only Rider student participating in the program, she experienced the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and the canal streets of Suzhou. In Hong Kong, Annarelli got a taste of home by visiting Disneyland.
Originally from Ocean City, N.J., Annarelli is an international business and finance major and Chinese minor who will graduate in December. She recently took the time to reflect on her study abroad program — one of many offered every year to Rider students through University's Center for International Education. At any given time, one of every 10 Rider students is studying somewhere in the world.
What drew you to a program in Shanghai?
As a business major, I wanted to be in one of China's four "Special Economic Zones." Because Shanghai is the largest of these zones, I thought being in the city would allow me to have a better understanding of China's economy and business culture.
I was unsure of what to expect. I went into this experience with an open mind though and I think it paid off! However, I was surprised to see the number of similarities between the U.S. and China.
Highlights of your experience?
Being on the Great Wall of China was incredible! Probably one of the best moments of my life. I also spent about 17 hours in Hong Kong; it was gorgeous! Also, I met some really awesome people and I'm very lucky to call them friends. Plus, the food was amazing.
What surprised you the most?
I was not expecting it to be so hot. When I got off the plane and saw palm trees I thought, "Uh oh, I didn't pack right." The jeans I brought never left my suitcase.
Notable challenges and how you overcame them?
The language barrier was a big challenge. I do know a little bit of Mandarin and I found that a lot of locals know some English, so I was able to get by. It definitely helped improve my Chinese. Google Translate was my biggest ally.
What lessons did you learn and how did your travels change you?
I learned that people have different ways of doing things and just because they're different doesn't make them wrong or less effective. This experience definitely made me more willing to step out of my comfort zone.
Did the program connect to your life or career goals? If so, how?
My biggest goal in life is to complete my travel bucket list, which has over 120 countries on it. I got to check China off my list! I went into this experience by myself and it has definitely given me the confidence to continue my travel goals.
Do you have tips for other students who are considering studying abroad?
Go for it! Be prepared and open to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. (Also, pack as light as possible!)