Please refer to the Chinese version of this article for his sharing.
Studying at the University of Washington (by Miss BYUN Hyunbin Hailey)
By BYUN Hyunbin Hailey
I went to the University of Washington in Seattle for an exchange programme offered by CW Chu College. Through this exchange opportunity, I have witnessed both my academic and personal growth. The University of Washington provides high-quality education with one of the top business faculties in the US and a chance to discover my own insights about American culture.
As the major principle in business is how to work as a team, business courses have many group projects. This was where I noticed the difference between students I met there and myself. Students in the University of Washington put in great effort in forming a holistic view, whereas I was used to focusing on my part only. Each member read the whole paper several times and gave comments to others' works. We took turns as the team leader, made plans and set up specific rules about team meetings. This approach helped members clearly understand our goals and provided clear guidelines.
I also observed something I didn't see in Hong Kong. There was a senior citizen sitting on the first row, sometimes also a couple with their child. The old man and the couple were most enthusiastic among our classmates, and the child was quietly watching her iPad during the whole class. From my observation and communication with them, I learnt that education is highly accessible to people in the US, regardless of age. In my opinion, the fundamental reason why these students are more commonly observed in the US than in Asian countries is cultural differences. People from Asian cultures are more sensitive to what society expects of them. Undergraduate education is commonly expected for young people, but it seems that Americans care less about the norm than Asians do. Taking classes in the University of Washington not only expanded my academic knowledge, but also offered opportunity to observe and compare both cultures.
Going on exchange is also a wonderful chance to travel. During spring break, I went to San Francisco and Los Angeles for a week with my friends. We went to Yosemite National Park and it was a great experience with nature. We had fun in San Francisco as well, which was beautiful with hills and harbours. In Los Angeles, I went to Santa Monica, UCLA, Hollywood, and Universal Studios Hollywood. Hollywood is full of vestiges of famous figures and the city has numerous shopping spots. However, an enormous number of tourists turned the city into a very commercialised one.
Before I joined this exchange programme, I didn't really understand the meaning of 'individualism' in American culture. I thought it was about people without a sense of community setting their personal goals as the priority. Through this exchange programme, I finally understand what it is about. Individualism represents Americans' respect for each other's individuality and not being judgmental about others. They accept the differences of and choices made by others without bias. This is very different from many Asian cultures, where people usually pay much attention to what society expects from them, and try to keep up with that standard. For example, it is very common for people to wear the same style of clothes or shoes in Korea, since they are highly sensitive to what others think of them. However, Americans won't hesitate to show their personalities, not just through their looks, but their words and choices. This atmosphere encourages people to discover their own identity with less restraint.
Living in Seattle for six months, I found my composure and realised that there is so much we have to appreciate in this world. Life is not just about results, but also about processes and experiences. Feelings and thoughts I have in every moment create who I am, and I should concentrate more on the positive side of these feelings. Through my journey to the University of Washington, I learnt why I have to do what I love, and why successful people love what they do.