In this guest post, Zhenyu Deng discusses his experiences as an international student in the MALS Program at NC State as well as the impact of his recent study abroad trip to Ghana.
Hi, I am so happy that I have this opportunity to share my feelings about this program and some unforgettable memories at this university.
I was born in a small village located in the south of China. I lived in this village for about 18 years until I caught an opportunity to study at a university in 2007. After four years of studies, I completed my previous major, international economics and trade, in 2011. In fact, I did not imagine that I would be here in the United States pursuing a master’s degree, because of the cost. The turning point was when I entered my previous company, which is a consulting firm to help students apply for overseas universities. I worked there for almost 6 years, which was a wonderful time to chase my inner voice and find out which path I should pursue. Meanwhile, during that period, I met different students and parents who made me think, and encouraged me with their passion for making their dreams come true. When I was a manager for about two years, I asked myself, where should I go, and should I step out of this comfort zone? In 2017, I decided to study abroad and enrolled at NC State University.
First, I researched the university and noticed that there is an interdisciplinary program, with really no specific boundaries to what you can study. I could choose different subjects to fulfill my curiosity and become a better person, as I told Dr. Garval. in our interview. From my previous working experience, I realized that to be a good worker or a leader, you should have some skills at “reading” different kinds of people, and be good at communicating in different settings. This interdisciplinary program has offered me great freedom to select what I want to learn and the opportunity to stretch myself. For example, this summer, I took part in a one month study abroad program, learning about the justice system and social work in Ghana. This program raised my awareness of public health and HIV disease prevalence in developing countries. During our stay, we visited local clinics, medicine factories, museums, and local families. This experience reminded me of my home country and brought back childhood memories. I wrote down and shared lots of opinions about life, values, aging, poverty, and disease. Meanwhile, in my MALS concentration, I took courses like Communication Consulting, Global Problems and Policies, Global Sustainable Human Development, and Family Reflection over the Life Course, courses from different field that all have strengthened my thinking and communication skills. MALS Seminars in particular were fantastic, because the different topics offered each semester exposed me to various perspectives, from people who grew up in different cultures.
As I have reached the end of my time in the program, I see that all the courses I took and the topics I discussed had a purpose: to encourage us to take charge of our future. I appreciate that I am the one in control in this program. To compare it with a more traditional degree program, MALS has allowed me to meet my unsatisfied needs and replenish my energy, before returning to the working world. NC State’s MALS Program is like a gas station for refueling your mind, before continuing your journey.