Special to The Ledger
The college’s Study Abroad program provides opportunities to study in any one of more than 30 countries across the globe. One JCCC student, Alan Fowler, spent two years in China in the program.
Fowler began as a student at the college in fall of 2011. In spring of 2013, he made the trip to China to study abroad and just recently returned to the United States in March 2015. Working as a Best Buy em¬ployee, Fowler decided to return to school to study business administration. Living in Lawrence at the time, he began learning Chinese as he interacted with foreign exchange students attending the University of Kansas on a regular basis, spawning his idea of potentially studying abroad in China.
Barbara Williams, international education adviser, says that China is a popular choice among students.
“China has long been one of the most popular countries … I don’t know what it is, but every student I have sent to China comes back bewitched, and they want to find a way to get back,” Williams said.
“I met Barbara … and she’s a great gal … I was kind of dipping my toes in the water as far as interest in studying abroad, and she just took me right in and got me set up and really put me on the fast track of doing it,” Fowler said. “She helped me get a scholarship and everything. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane. I was 26 at the time, and nothing in my life led me to believe or think that I would be going to Asia … I wanted a challenge and there it was, so I just went for it.”
Fowler spent his time studying in Nan¬jing, capital of the Jiangsu province in Eastern China. The city is roughly a two-hour train ride away from Shanghai. When not studying, Fowler was able to see the Great Wall in Beijing, visit Shanghai and tour a variety of temples throughout China. His journey was not without difficulty, however. He experienced racism on several occasions. Cabs slowed down, saw him and sped off again. Locals made negative comments about him in Chinese, not expecting him to understand. The classes were also more difficult that anything he had taken stateside.
“[It is] something I’m actually thankful for. As a white American, I got to experience racism,” Fowler said.
“The classes were intense … it was like a dad just throwing his kid in the deep end to learn how to swim. There were times I was so frustrated and angry, I just wanted to freaking cry, man. They were brutal. The classes were good though … It’s no joke. You have to study a lot. The teachers they paired us up with were amazing. They really took care of us. They didn’t just teach us the language. They made sure we were doing okay in a foreign country.”
Williams, who has been advising international students for eight years, says study¬ing abroad is a unique way for students to grow and gain a world view. According to her, most students come back stronger than when they left, with a massive increase in confidence. Fowler’s experience was a prime example of this confidence.
“It’s not for everybody, [as] some people have responsibilities here. But I would also say that our generation has a big responsibility for our country to be the best, to be as competitive as we can be, and know the most about our culture. Without a doubt, go¬ing over there made me more competitive, gave me a thicker skin, made me understand our country better and really made me, most importantly, want America to succeed,” Fowler said. “If people are on the fence about it, just do it. They owe it to themselves and they owe it to their country.”