International relations and U.S. politics: Ru's American experience
By Ru Sun, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015 and 2016 participant from China
My name is Ru Sun, and I am a Master’s candidate in International Relations, currently at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, which is also a famous think tank globally. I did the Work & Travel USA program in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, I was selected by the Institutes for a reciprocal study abroad program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
About my experiences in the United States
I have participated in the Work & Travel USA program twice. My first Work and Travel experience, in 2015, changed me a lot, from a girl under a lot of pressure from school, with too many concerns about an unclear future, to a passionate and positive person. It was my first time living abroad, having to face many things independently while I learned little by little about how to lead my life positively. Also, it was the first time that I got a taste of culture shock, and what it was like for my life to be meaningful and have challenges. For the first time, I realized how important being responsible and social networking are.
I adapted into the culture quickly and started to observe the differences between China and the United States—the good, and the bad as well. I liked to talk about everything with neighbors, like who would be the U.S. President in 2016 and other topics as well, which helped me to better understand American culture and how people think in the United States.
After all the things I went through on my first Work & Travel USA program, I can say that I started to become stronger, more faithful, and more confident than ever before. The three-month stay made me know the United States so well that it seemed I had been there for years. I had a feeling that it would not be the last time I was in America.
When I came back to China, after a short time preparing, I was accepted into my graduate school, which is a think tank for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, as well. In China, it’s not easy to pass the entrance exam for graduate school; students take one year, sometimes longer, to prepare. I think that the positive attitude and clear mindset that I got from the United States helped me to get into graduate school.
During the summer of the first year of my Master’s program in 2016, I applied and got the chance to go to Portland, Maine, to the headquarters of CIEE, for the Work & Travel USA program. I was very excited to explore more, but shortly after I was offered the position, the sudden death of my young and dear father dragged me and the whole family into the darkest period in our lives. I couldn’t believe it had happened and I was thinking about giving up the chance to go back to the United States. My mom insisted that I move forward so I went to Portland in the end. It was the friends I made while working at CIEE that helped me get through all those hard times and appreciate the present. I am also always thankful to CIEE for providing me with the chance to meet so many friends from different corners of the world—most of us are still connected.
The times hanging out with friends and exploring the U.S. after work are my favorite memories from the program. It was hard returning home after being in America, because friends meant a lot to me. It took me a while to get used to a life back home without them.
On my programs, I got the chance to meet some new friends and visit old friends. I flew a jet with my friend from Denver through Nebraska and Wyoming. I was invited to the Toyota Center in Houston for a basketball game by a friend I met in Shanghai, who worked at the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, and his family.
I think that being in the United States affected how I see life and the world. I would say that the U.S. is more complicated than people usually think. It’s diverse and there are also different kinds of problems that exist. Observing, exploring, and thinking about what I saw and heard did make me more rational and calm when I faced something in life.
More about my Political Interests
I chose Diplomacy as my major at university when, actually, I didn’t realize what it would mean to me. I had no idea what was going on in the world. However, I always had a curiosity about things happening not only here in China, but all over the world, from all perspectives. I wanted to figure out what was right and what was wrong, and I wanted to hear diverse voices from other places. Plus, to be a diplomat was a cool thing in my mind. All of those reasons made me start to be interested in politics and international relations. The more I learned in class, sometimes the more I doubted, I was fascinated by those relations developing among countries.
I participated in the Model United Nations at the university to role-play diplomats from different countries, discussing the heated global issues with other students nationwide. From this, I got to know more about political issues. My English was okay at that time, so I was up for all kinds of opportunities to participate in international conferences as a volunteer. That’s how I got to know some international guests. I was sent to receive a group of people from the United States when I was a junior at the university, and that is how I met Colorado State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg. At that time, he was a legislator as well as a farmer, which I found out much later on. We kept in touch, and I visited him and his family twice, once after my first WAT program, and a second time during my studies in Texas last spring. Through him, I had the chance meet the governor of Colorado to discuss politics with lobbyists and other politicians. After talking with those politicians, I became more interested in American politics!
I am going to graduate soon with my Master’s degree. Recently, I have been job searching in the fields of international education and policy analysis at an NGO, international organization, or foreign company. The experience of being in the United States helps me fit in an international environment very easily.