Studying Overseas by Chi Lee

Five years ago, when I knew that I had the chance to study in one of the most prominent and diverse countries on the world, I felt my dream had come true. I was overwhelmed by joy and excitement. But now, I still remember the day that I left my parents and sister behind and went on the flight to the United Sates alone to begin my undergraduate study. All I had with me were two suitcases , my viola, tears, and an aching heart.

As an international student, I get to meet lots of friends from all over the world and to explore this new country together, but I also have to deal with culture differences and language issues and take care of myself. As a musician, specifically, I get to meet many great players and terrific teachers.

Here are some great things that I want to share with you about studying overseas, especially as a musician. First of all, there is no better way to learn a foreign language than living and speaking in the native place. Secondly, observing the different culture and interacting with people from another culture enriches your musicality. In addition, learning how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally when you are in a foreign place helps you become a stronger person. Most importantly, you get to experience different teaching styles and school systems. For example, when I was in Taiwan I was expected to do what my teacher told me to do, and I didn’t have to talk a lot during lessons, but I realize that I have to think and ask questions during lessons here. It took me quite a while to get used to the new approach.

On the other hand, here are some things that I would be aware of when studying overseas. First, culture difference might upset you for a while. And there are some moments when I just miss my family and my country so much, but there is nothing I can do about it. Then, traveling with my viola sometimes can become an issue. For example, there was one flight attendant who insisted I leave my viola at the luggage compartment, and I had to argue with the person for a long time before she would let me carry my viola on the plane. Also, the life style of different cites may take you some time to adjust. In my case, I did my undergraduate in New York City, which is one of the busiest and compressed cities in the world. So I had no problem taking public transportation everywhere in the city—doing grocery shopping and so on. When I moved to Houston for my graduate study, I realized that having a car was necessary (and safe) for the daily life here.

Studying overseas is definitely one of my most important life decisions. I am grateful to be at Rice and study with my wonderful teacher, Ivo. If you are planning to explore the world and be a stronger musician, then pick a place where people speak a different language to begin your journey. I have learned so much from studying overseas. It has not only made me a more flexible person but also has colored the music that I make. However, the only thing that I never feel easy to do is to say goodbye to my family and country at the airport every time I am leaving them!

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