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Opinion

Study abroad allows great memories

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March 28, 2014

I have many stories and adventures to share from my education abroad experience and I have found that “a good tale never tires in the telling,” which is a Scottish proverb.

Kristin Klimeck poses at the Great Wall of China.
Kristin Klimeck poses at the Great Wall of China. She has traveled to Scotland and China while at UW-River Falls. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Klimeck)

My name is Kristin Klimeck, a graduating senior, with a marketing communications major. I have had the opportunity to travel many parts of the world with help from the Global Connections office. I have been a part of the Wisconsin in Scotland program and also the Experience China program. I have had many amazing and life changing endeavors that include: hiking the Great Wall, climbing Mount Olympus in Greece, riding bike on the ancient wall of Xi’an, navigating a group of fellow students through Rome, participating in traditional Scottish ceilidhs, wandering through a bamboo forests and much more. I can only share a few of the incredible moments that I have had with Scotland and China.

Scotland was not a debate for me. I always knew I wanted to go and once I found out UW-River Falls had a program that could get me there, it was just a matter of when. Wanting more than ever to be immersed in a culture bursting with tales of fairies and castles straight out of story books, I suddenly found myself signed up and accepted into the program for the spring semester of my sophomore year. Soon an impulsive decision would turn into a life-changing journey. The Wisconsin in Scotland program was beyond my expectations and enhanced my desire to experience new cultures. My eyes had been opened and I was ready to get lost in another culture. I never thought that another opportunity would present itself so quickly or that I would jump at the chance.

Four short years later I was face to face with another chance to travel. China, a vast expanse of uncharted territory for me, required more thought and discussion than Scotland. It was the next place on my travel bucket list, but was it the right choice at this point in my life? Here was an opportunity to experience an entirely different culture and a time to push the limits of my comfort zone. A chance to absorb myself in ancient traditions and landscapes, open doors for others seeking new ventures and cultivate my understanding of a people with such a rich history. I had a door standing wide open for me, all I had to do was walk through it. The pieces fi t too perfectly, so pushing away any doubts I walked through that door and am now beyond ecstatic with what has currently transpired.

My experiences in China to date have been nothing short of phenomenal, much like Scotland. There are always fun activities to do, sights to be seen and food to eat. The most lavish dishes can be found at any sit-down restaurant while street food is equally as delicious. Rice is easy to come by and the steamed buns should be illegal. My favorite are the pork steamed buns and I eat them regularly. While taking in the sights it is easy to rent a bike from one of the many bike stations situated throughout Hangzhou. Many times while riding a bike or walking around the city, I am in wonder at why more travelers do not come to China to experience this fascinating country.

Contrary to China, the language barrier was not as prominent in Scotland and navigating through the cities was a simple task. In Scotland, double-decked buses were the mode of transportation, food was just as drool inducing as ever, only it was very different from that in China. Meat and potatoes reign supreme and a good old pasty will satisfy any hunger pains. If you were a food connoisseur, or maybe an adventurous food junkie, haggis and blood pudding are a must try. After filling up on pasties, getting lost in the historical towns and mist-enshrouded hills were a favorite past time. Living in a palace is probably the most exciting thing in life.

Two very different countries with equally fascinating and rich histories produced memories and lessons that I will forever carry with me wherever I go. To say that I have had an incredible time is an understatement, but to say that I do not regret either of my decisions to participate in both programs is the truth. I am deeply grateful to UWRF for having these programs and giving me the chance to broaden my horizons, discover more about myself than ever imaginable, and to learn more from my experiences than a classroom could ever teach. As said by the late and great Chinese Philosopher, Confucius: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Kristin Klimeck is a student at UW-River Falls.