Studying abroad: Some best times of my life

[Updates about me: I’m currently having a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, interning at a newspaper over here. New place, new experiences and hopefully I’ll be able to post more stuff on this blog about life here!]

I’ve wrote this piece a long time ago but could never find the time and effort to post it up to wordpress. I’m finally going to be doing this!

Studying abroad could have been my best experience in my three-years in college.

My first snow ever in Missouri.

I’m a journalism student, therefore, to be able to experience American free-wheeling media up close and up front is definitely a mind-blowing experience for me.

I was enrolled in the Missouri School of Journalism, the first journalism school established in USA and also one of the top three journalism school there. I had the most rigorous and hands-on journalism education for the past five months working in a fully functioning local radio station and website.

That\’s me at Jeff city, Missouri\’s state capitol, and trying to look as professional as possible.

Never had I ever thought that I would be required to produce radio and video stories every week. Never would I imagine that I could solicit articles from local citizens about what they thought of a school bond proposal. Never had I expected that I could get into the groove of local town politics in less than a month. But I did it all.

I have to admit that I was always a city girl. I grew up, eat, lived and breathe city life. Missouri is what I would call the heartland of America and to live in a little university town of Missouri came as a total shock to me when I first went there. There were vast acres of cornfields and farmlands beside the school. Driving became a must. Life all of a sudden became… slower.

But to have the chance to experience the rural life was just awesome, partially because I know I would not have another legitimate excuse to do it. I visited my friend’s farm, saw some of his horses, went fishing by the lake, sat on his tractor, played soccer and basically, got in touch with nature.

Jian Yue (in red) and Simin (in orange) pretending to be the tall weeds when we\’re on William, our American friend\’s family farm!

I’ve met new friends over there: Sometimes, we would go to farmers market together; Sometimes, we would work hard on our assignments together; Sometimes, we would just hang out to drink.

Did I forget to mention study abroad is also a good opportunity to travel around the country? Besides going to popular tourist destinations in the East and West coast, I’ve also got the chance to visit places less travelled to in the mid-west such as Chicago, St. Louis and Madison.

If you’ve got the desire to live on another continent and experience a different kind of lifestyle and culture, going for an exchange program is a fantastic chance for you to do so. And the good news for your parents would be that they do not need to burn their pockets to send for an overseas education but still allow you to live on a foreign land for a short while.

And I learned something new about one of America\’s greatest contemporary architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his hometown in Oaktown, Illinois

 

And I also get to imagine President Obama in U of Chicago

 

The week before all the exchange students left Columbia, we went out for pizza – the good old American way!
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Exams!

Hi everyone,

It’s the run up to exams week, so I’m kinda trying to stay afloat my pile of assignments and exams. I promise I’ll be working on this blog in about a week’s time. In the mean time, I’m getting all ready to leave Columbia since it’s coming to an end of my study abroad experience in the U.S. and it’s been AMAZING! I totally love this entire experience and it’s blown my mind away.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with this blog. I love the idea of this so I might continue to update with more new friends as I meet them along the way half-way across the globe!

Cheers,
Jie Yi

Kristen Overmyer: Being different

After knowing Kristen (KO thereafter), she has taught me a couple of lessons that I could take away from my study abroad program in Missouri.

1. It’s okay to be different.
2. It’s not only okay to be different but it’s also okay to embrace it.
3. Accepting it is not enough, you will need to live up to what you believe in, even if it means to be different.

So as not to repeat the story that I’ve done about her before, check out Kristen’s three-year battle with her horrible illness on MyMissourian website.

Back to the lessons that I learned from KO:
KO is the most open LGBT friend I’ve ever had, and I seriously do mean it. When I first got to know her at the start of the year, I was taken aback by her frankness in telling the whole class that she has a partner and her sexual preferences. My reaction was more of a cultural shock than anything else.

KO and Elisha
I know of friends who are homosexuals and have been together for many years. But their relationship are still hush-hush affairs that they keep from their families. They struggle to reconcile their sexual preferences with god, with new friends that they meet and even with their future together. As I watch them grow, I learn about their struggles to find their identity within Asian societies. People are less accepting in Asia of LGBT folks, especially so in Singapore where they have minimal level of rights protection.

For KO to tell everyone, including classmates that she met for the first time, she is a lesbian, was to me, liberating. As I got to know KO, I realized she was frank about most things that people are usually too embarrassed to talk about. She would tell anyone about her not having a large intestine or about her voluptuous boobs.

Her family members are also very supportive of her choices.

Screen shot from Facebook

It has always been difficult to be different but with a dose of encouragement from your family and friends, KO made me realized that there is nothing wrong with being the odd one out. Perhaps it is because American societies are more liberal such that differences are more easily accepted. At the same time, it also takes a lot for you, as an individual, to wear your differences on your sleeve. You’ll be the one that sticks out, but also the one that others can remember best.

To KO: We must meet up before I leave!

@seejy: Tweeps are real peeps!

Screen shot of my Twitter page
This post is going to be unconventional because it is not going to be about a particular person that I met in Columbia. I am going to rave about my Twitter ‘friends’ in this post to keep track of how I became addicted to social media.

On my Twitter account, two-thirds of those, who I’m following and are my followers, are made up of people I had neither never met before nor talked to before in real life. In fact, most of whom I’m following have been added over the last 3 months.

But do I think that these tweeps (twitter peeps) are less ‘real’ than my high school friends? I would say more no and some yes.

I came to Columbia knowing nothing about this place, not even the mayor’s name or that there is a county system in America. As a journalism student, not knowing anything is not very helpful at all.

But social media helped me gain some insights into the talk of the town and the latest developments in town. In the process, I met people who were passionate about their cause, such as @CommericalScott, who campaigned hard for Google to lay high speed optic fibers in this town and @jenleereeves, tech-savvy, new-media assistant professor of the Journalism School. Twitter gave me the opportunity to know a little about who they are before meeting them in real life, only rather recently.

Social media, Twitter in particular, has revolutionized how anyone can make friends with other people. If you lament about the lack of face-to-face contact with your friends, there are various opportunities to meet up with your tweeps(twitter peeps) such as Twestival(Twitter Festival), TweetUp(Twitter users meet-up) etc.

Picture taken by @jamie_oliver on Twitpic
In my case, I’m really excited that I became Jamie Oliver’s follower. I’m unabashed to say that I’m a HUGE fan of his since elementary school. I would sit in front of the TV and watch the Naked Chef series, pretending to smell the food that he was whipping up in his funny British accent. I grew up watching him.

But apart from goggle-box Jamie, I never knew who he really was until I started following him on Twitter. He frequently twitters, especially about his food revolution in the USA and sometimes with pictures of himself in a studio set.

Am I going to meet Jamie Oliver one day? I highly doubt that it would happen. But is it possible to chat with him? Yes it definitely is!

So why am I excited about following Jamie Oliver on Twitter? Because Twitter helps put a personality to Jamie, about what he is doing, what is he thinking about at that moment and what he wants to say for himself. Instead of being a far-fetched, remote British celebrity chef that I once knew, he is very much a human being, with random thoughts, emotions and his own character. (If I tweeted this post out to him, he might reply back to me!)

In about a month’s time, I’ll be leaving Mizzou but the impact of social media has left an indelible mark on my lifestyle. I’m an official TWITTERHOLIC, late in the game but never afraid to start.

Social media is not an end, but a means to meet more people and friends out there that you can never imagine yourself talking to in real life. ROCK ON!

PS: Just added my first secondary school friend @simonelin on Twitter. HYPED!

Update on William’s social network

I apologize for this rather dated and late update on William’s social network because of the failure of Graphviz, a open-source software that I was previously using. I have no idea what happened to it but for now, I’ve decided to revert to Microsoft Word to solve my problem.

The social network between William and I is slightly more complicated because we do not have perfectly overlapping friends. Nevertheless, I’m still amazed at the number of common friends that we share because I just got to know William for less than 3 weeks.