Studying Abroad & Citizen Academy

Studying abroad is the best way for me to learn.

An old Chinese saying goes, “in order to attain wisdom, it is not enough merely to read books, you must be well traveled as well." As an international student who has stayed in the U.S for two years, I absolutely understand what the true meaning of this is.

I decided to study abroad after my graduation from high school in China. The reason is very simple because I thought the U.S. had the best universities in the world. To be honest, I didn't have too many ideas on what the true meaning of the U.S. was, even though I had learned a lot of American history in my history textbooks and U.S political news on TV. I am still very confused about how things work in U.S.

However, if you can come and have a close look by yourself, it is enough to change your mind. I gradually deepened my understanding of the United States in these two years. (Especially the time I spent in the School of Public & Environmental Affairs - SPEA).

In classrooms, The Constitution of the United States is a great tool for me to understand the “spirit” of this nation. After many in-class discussions, I suddenly realized and told my professor that the Constitution of U.S. is a great creation because of its “ambiguity”. It can prevent bad politicians from misunderstanding and misinterpreting because no one can interpret or utilize it in a certain way. A “flexible” constitution has the ability of self-examination and self-healing. The founding fathers were very smart and I believe they created this ambiguity on purpose. That’s why the Constitution could last around two hundred years and still protect the democracy in this nation. If I did not choose to study abroad, I would never have had this reflection.

Outside of the classroom, I can feel the existence of “check and balances” everywhere in my daily life. I think the essence of "check and balances" is respect. Respecting others’ rights, properties, boundaries, and ideas. What’s more, Compromise is also a very important component in U.S society. And I think compromise is a kind of respect as well. (No one can always be right, so you should listen.) In my opinion, the final purpose of the U.S political system is to create an equal and competitive environment for us to achieve a common good. Meanwhile, there are a lot of things that I cannot learn in classroom. When I was downtown, I heard the complaints of the health care system from elder residents. I was shocked when I saw some homeless people sleeping at the bus station in a cold winter. It reminds me that some policies still need to be improved and there are problems to be fixed in the United States.

This is my first experience of studying abroad and it will be a great wealth in my life. “Don’t believe what people tell you until you see it by yourself.” I love studying abroad. I believe I can have an impressive and meaningful spring break in my second journey of studying abroad.

My experience of Citizen Academy

I was a member in Citizen Academy this year. I really learned a lot that I have never seen before from this amazing experience. To encourage more civic involvement through a basic understanding of city services, the city government of Bloomington developed the Citizen Academy. The Academy is a nine-week program that provides only thirty participants per year with an interactive learning experience about city services, programs and responsibilities. Through the sessions with various city departments, I learned about the challenges of city governments, budget limitations, day-to-day operations and mandates. I gained this opportunity from a career advisor in SPEA and became one of the thirty lucky people this year. I applied as the only international student who could study in the Chamber of City Hall. At that time, I was curious about everything in our City Hall and different departments.

During this program, I visited some departments such as the department of Police, Fire, Utility, Parks & Recreation, Sustainability, Transportation, Bloomington Transit, and Housing & Neighborhood Development. I listened to the speech from Mayor Mark Cruzan and asked questions about his project. I advised three Directors from different Departments to improve public services. (To help overwhelming amount of students get to the bus in the morning, I told the director of the Transportation Department that we should double the “Route 9” buses at Campus Corner’s stop between 7am to 7:40am.) I enjoyed studying with people who work in the public sector/local government because their passion and social responsibility impressed me a lot. The first step to learn how to run a country is learning how to run a city. I believe this professional experience could let me stand out before getting my internships.

About The Author
YI ZHOUInternational Student Ambassador

International Student Ambassador