Erika Roitblat is one of the peer advisers for the Office of Education Abroad. Peer advisers provide information to students about education abroad opportunities during the OEA walk-in advising hours 1-4 p.m. on Monday-Friday. They also present general education abroad information to classes, residence halls, student organizations, and during orientation sessions, fairs and information sessions as needed. Stop by the Walter International Education Center, 15 Park Place to meet Erika!
My name is Erika Roitblat and I am a senior at Ohio Univerity. In the summer before my junior year I traveled to China through one of OEA’s study abroad programs. I spent seven weeks studying with 15 other OHIO students at China’s Beijing Language and Culture University. Outside of the classroom where we studied the Chinese Language intensely, the time spent in China was full of site seeing, eye opening cultural encounters and in the end, a truly life changing experience. Even though traveling to the other side of the world was not something I came to college with the desire to do, from the moment I stepped foot onto Chinese soil, my life changed.
As a girly girl, traveling to a country where some may say the quality of life is much different than what we are used to in the United States, was slightly nerve wracking but exciting to me. I learned that life did not require a flat iron, curling iron or hair dryer. Especially when trying to use one of them would cause flames and smoke to engulf your bathroom and bring your appliances to destruction; at least that’s the memory I have of the event. I also learned that beds are not universally padded with springboards and cushioning. I learned that bathrooms do not always come decorated with the same amenities that we are accustomed to. I learned that transportation by car is not necessarily the only way to get around. I also learned not to believe all the stereotypes about Asian driver. And I learned that the way we eat, dress and talk is not reflected in other cultures.
I also learned that the world is so much bigger than I could imagine by having just read a book or watching a movie. I learned that the Great Wall is one heck of a tough structure to climb, but that carving your name on the top of it is the coolest place that you will ever write it. I learned that a shopping experience can be hugely different in another country, and that five dollars can go much farther in China than it can in the US! I saw people making their living selling miscellaneous items on the streets who would give lifelong salesmen here a run for their money. I ate amazing food that I wish I could sit down and taste again. I saw thousand-year-old history literally staring me in the face at the site of the eighth wonder of the world, the Terracotta warrior site. And I got to experience the unique sound of male opera singers playing women in one of Beijing’s oldest traditions. I also had the eye opening experience of spending time everyday with people my age who have lived their entire lives in China. I learned how different our experiences growing up in different countries are, but how similar our interests and passions are as well.
Along side the list of just a few great experiences I had in China, I was also able to bring the subject I was studying, which was the Mandarin language, to life all around me everyday. I could not have learned, appreciated, or understood the subject I studied in China to the degree that I did had I just sat in a classroom for four hours a week studying it in the States. China changed me, and I hope one day I get to experience that life altering feeling again.