“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” This familiar quote by Lao Tzu epitomized my own journey this summer where I spent five weeks in China on a Faculty/Staff International Development Award (FIDA). These awards are offered to all full-time, board-appointed faculty and staff at the University of Idaho through our partnership with the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC). Actually, my first step in the journey was filling out the application, and rather than a thousand miles, my FIDA took me approximately 5,945 miles (9,567 kilometers) from Moscow, Idaho to Shanghai, China. In just five short weeks, I had the experience of a lifetime, living in one of the most exciting, dynamic cities in the world.
Just a twenty minute commute from downtown Shanghai, I lived on Yanchang Street, twelve floors above a French-Chinese fusion bakery called Bread Party. Right across the street was Shanghai University’s Yanchang Campus, where I studied Introductory Mandarin, Chinese Culture, and even learned a few basic Jiu-Jitsu moves. For five weeks, I settled in and made the quieter neighborhood around Yanchang my home. Each morning, I would usually start by visiting the local baozi stand for breakfast and then would meander through the local gardens and produce markets. As one of the world’s largest cities, there were endless neighborhoods, communities, attractions, museums, events, restaurants, and more to explore.
FIDAs open up a window of possibility to dive into a new culture and a new part of the world, all through a unique and structured program. USAC has over 30 years of experience and has developed programs in 26 different countries. Whether you’re an experienced traveler or a greenhorn, each site location offers a wonderful support base and the flexibility to go at your own pace. FIDAs provide the opportunity to get an insider’s look at the types of programs thousands of students participate in each year.
As a staff member of the International Programs Office at the University of Idaho, I get to interact with international students on a daily basis, many of whom come from China. On a professional level, my experience with this FIDA gave me a radical new perspective and insight into their culture and way of life. I was able to make close connections and friendships with colleagues in-country, UI alumni, and prospective students that will hopefully one day become part of the legacy. I had so many wonderful takeaways from this opportunity that helped give new meaning, excitement, and understanding in both my work and personal life.
I encourage everyone to consider this unique invitation to step into a new culture and help promote internationalization at the University of Idaho. Whether you work directly with international students or not, our campus is constantly growing in diversity and being influenced by students and faculty coming from all across the globe. For more information, contact our Study Abroad Office and fill out your FIDA application