What You Need to Ask Yourself When Exploring a New Culture

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On Friday, April 21st, I had the honor to attend an Award Ceremony and a dinner hosted by Mr. Cen Jianjun, the Minister Counselor for Education at the Education Office of the Embassy of China in the United States. The ceremony recognized Chinese students studying abroad, and the evening was full of exciting conversations, wonderful musical performances, and delicious Chinese food.

Carey Alumna Mingxin Jin performs on Guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument

Several distinguished guests made remarks and one of the speeches in particular stood out for me. The speaker, an American, shared his experience as an international student in China. The part that made a great impression was his mention of three questions he encourages international students to ask themselves. I have listed those questions below along with my thoughts on how these could apply to international students at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. I encourage you to ask yourself the three questions and pay attention to what comes up in your responses.

Why Are You Here?

This question often comes up when I meet with a student for the first time. It urges an exploration of reasons for being in the United States and for being at Carey. If you are a current or prospective Carey student, reflect on your purpose of being in the US and at Carey beyond your academics. While performing well in your classes is a significant accomplishment, you could do that anywhere. What is it about Carey and about being in Baltimore or Washington, DC that can bring additional value to your experience? Maximize your time by identifying opportunities to enhance your skills; expand your knowledge of culture, art, and your target industry; and build your professional and personal network.

Who Are You Spending Your Time With?

I love that question. While the concept of you are who you spend your time with brings up a reflection on who our closest friends are, in the case of international students, the question has a more specific meaning. Students often ask me how they can improve their English or their speaking ability and the answer is always: practice, practice, practice. And you cannot practice if who you spend time with are other international students from your home country. It’s virtually impossible to try and speak in English when everyone around you speaks your native language. I know. I was an international student once, too. It takes motivation and intention to get out of your comfort zone and speak in a foreign language, but you will be better off for it. Trust me on that one.

Who Do You Represent?

As you embark on a journey in a foreign country, keep in mind that you are a representative of your culture, your country, and yourself. In addition, as a student at Carey, you also represent the school as well as the people you work with: your professors, your career coach, your advisor, and your classmates. What you do and say impacts the larger Carey community and we, the career coaches, are here to help you prepare put your best self forward. Ask us how to own your professional development and we will offer guidance!

Krasi Shapkarova

Krasi is Carey the Torch's Editor-in-Chief and also represents the Career Development Office in Washington, D.C., working with students on career exploration and development. Krasi holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Master of Arts in International Human Rights from the University of Denver.

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