This entry is not about studying abroad but it relates because this could happen to YOU while you travel. When I travel internationally, I try to not develop expectations because I want to be prepared for the unexpected. The best example is in November 2012, when I accompanied Executive Associate Dean Phil Cochran and Associate Dean Ken Carow to Guangzhou China to recruit students from Sun Yat-sen University. At the end of the official visit, we had one day before we departed for Trisakti University in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was recommended we visit Macau, China. The city/country is part of China but we officially left China had our passports stamped in Macau, then had them stamped when we entered into China. Strange, I know. Macau is often described as Las Vegas on steroids. I've not been to Vegas, but I believe it. Casinos galore and massive hotels everywhere! I thought that would be the most shocking experience...not even close.
We decided to leave the casino area and go into the city to find dinner. I learned that the Portuguese developed a major settlement in Macau in 1550ish and brought elements (picture on right) of Europe and Catholicism to the coast of China. I'm Catholic and I always try to find a church for Mass but realized it was a challenge in China. Walking through the city, there were huge buildings, lots of people bustling around, and shop keepers opening up shops after lunch. It was like every other part of China I visited, but we turned a corner on this little street and stepped into a town square.
I stepped out of China and into Europe. Everything was different. The restaurants, the smells, the stores, the food, everything. The signs in the town were written in Chinese, French, and Portuguese. Some might call it the "little Portugal" of China. There are no tall buildings but a lot of tourists. I saw more Catholic churches is this small stretch of land than I had ever seen before. I was amazed and awed by this unexpected experience.
Eric's abroad lesson: Be prepared for travel but prepare for the unexpected. Make sure to something different because anything could happen.