Monday, February 16, 2015

"Focus on the Path": One Student's Journey from Second-Choice to Shanghai

by Jordan Griffin

Hailing from the humble town of London, Kentucky, Jordan Griffin moved many times growing up before finally settling down in NC. A student in the Lloyd International Honors College here at UNCG, he is pursuing a double major in Media Studies and Asian Studies. Here on campus, Jordan is an active volunteer at IPC and interns at Chinese-American education company, New Mind Education. He is currently in the middle of his year-long study abroad experience at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, furthering his 2.5+ years of studying Chinese language and culture.

When One Door Closes…

A few lessons in Tai Chi
My story began when I was deferred from my “dream” school and, in a panic to meet deadlines, applied last-minute to UNCG. The old saying “when one door closes, another door opens” never rang truer than during my experience here at UNCG. I had always loved the concept of foreign languages and, not sure of what direction to take my Media Studies major in, I opted to challenge myself by taking Chinese as my foreign language. Enrolled in the international honors college, all of my choices culminated into adding a second major in Asian Studies, finding an internship, volunteering service, joining the GLP (Global Leadership Program), and now setting foot in The People’s Republic of China.

Opportunity Knocks

Judging a local English competition
With Japanese and Korean classmates in Longjin
tea village of Hangzhou
If I could give a piece of advice to a stranger here at school, it would be to make at least one international friend. Why? You never know where these global connections can take you, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn!

 In my freshman year, I met my (now) best friend, a Chinese student studying accounting here at UNCG, by chance in our dining hall. I began my study abroad experience by staying at his home with him and his family for 4 months in Yangzhou before starting school in nearby Shanghai. Through this, I was able to have an authentic experience living true Chinese everyday life both in the city and out in the country. Over this summer, I was also able to travel to nearby Hong Kong and Korea, where more former international students at UNCG happily showed me around their hometowns.

Of School Bells and Car Horns

Travel club in Tonglu, Zhejiang
Once amidst Shanghai’s population of 14.35 million and sky-high towers, it’s easy to forget the quiet Chinese countryside and become caught up in the bright lights, infamous pollution, and incessant honking of horns. 

I’m busy finishing preparing for Chinese New Year and the new school semester that soon follows after finishing up my first semester of pure Chinese language study. 

So far I have been able to join Fudan’s travel club and travel to many exciting destinations, and have made lifelong bonds with the friends and classmates I have met. I have also been able to further my volunteering endeavors by teaching English to middle and high school students on weekends and engaging in English conversation practice with elderly members of a retirement home on weekdays. Of course, there is always still time for the odd excursion into Shanghai’s city depths on weekends.

Making the Connection

After being here for about 9 months, I can already see how every decision I’ve made has influenced the path that has lead me here. I’ve learned the valuable lesson that although you may not have an idea of where you want to end up at the beginning of your journey, as long as you focus on the path that takes you there you will most definitely find your own way. The smallest steps, introducing yourself to a new international student on campus, daring to take a new language, or even just simply reading a study abroad pamphlet from IPC, can all lead you somewhere you’d never have expected, even to the other side of the Earth.
The Bund, Shanghai

To learn more about Fudan University, visit

To learn more about Lloyd International Honors College, visit

To make an appointment with IPC to discuss your own study abroad options, visit

Monday, February 2, 2015

Germany: A Student's Opportunity to Reach Out to Their Fellow Classmates

Relaxing on Insel Mainau in
Konstanz, Germany
by Nichole Schachter

Nicole Schachter is a senior at UNCG who will be graduating in May 2015 as a double major in Psychology and German. Nicole went on an eight month study abroad program to work and study in Germany. She received the highly competitive DAAD undergraduate scholarship for study abroad and now serves as a DAAD young ambassador for UNCG.

Exploring The Other Half of Me

Posing in front of Neuschwanstein
My mother was a first generation immigrant from the small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach. She made sure I was raised part German, but I had always considered myself mostly American. It was during my time abroad that the way I perceived myself changed. I was excited to finally be able to take part in a culture that made up half of who I was. I wanted to learn more than the German language, I wanted to immerse myself into the German lifestyle and find out what I had been missing.

Opportunity Knocks: the DAAD

Springtime hiking trip in the alps
I was introduced to the German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst), by my German professor, Dr. Susanne Rinner. The DAAD is a scholarship organization that focuses on fostering an exchange between Germany and countries all around the world. Its mission is to encourage conversations and create partnerships between Germany and other countries. I applied for the undergraduate study scholarship and was ecstatic when I discovered that I had actually received the award. This was only the beginning of my partnership with the DAAD.

Coming Home

Working as a DAAD ambassador
at a study abroad expo
My experience abroad provided me with exactly what I wanted. I was able to experience Germany in a whole new light, and by the time I left I felt Germany was home, or as the Germans say “meine Heimat.” While my time abroad had come to a close, this was only the beginning of my involvement with the DAAD. I decided that I wanted to do something more with my abroad experience, so I applied and was accepted to be a DAAD young ambassador. Through this position I have been given the chance to introduce other students to the opportunities that awaited them in Germany. In addition to attending study abroad expos, hosting German events such as Oktoberfest, and appearing on radio shows, I have spoken to approximately 200 students about my experience during class visits. I do this not only because I want to share my experience but because I do not want any student to miss out on the life-changing adventure that awaits them through study abroad.

A special thanks to Dr. Susanne Rinner who not only brought the DAAD to my attention but also assisted me throughout my application and to the International Programs Center (IPC), specifically Tom Martinek for allowing me to attend study abroad class visits. 

To learn more about the DAAD, visit

To make an appointment with IPC to discuss your own study abroad options, visit