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Brianna Chan with an umbrella

Name: Brianna Chan

Major: Environmental Health Sciences

Expected graduation date: 2022

Why did you want to go to China and South Korea? 

China and South Korea are both rising leaders in the green sector, regarding clean technology development and innovative urban planning. As someone who is interested in alleviating the detriments environmental issues have on minority and underrepresented groups, I find that reforming our political, economic, and social systems at the policy-making root can set the stage for a more equitable, sustainable world. China and South Korea, both being places where policy reform is pushing for greener economies, were optimal for gaining insight on how innovation is rapidly promoting global sustainability goals. And of course — it’s a huge bonus that I was able to connect with my Chinese heritage (and even visit relatives in Hong Kong!) while having the learning experience of a lifetime.

What specifically were you doing in China and South Korea?

This program took place from mid-May to mid-June. We were in Seoul for one week, Shanghai for another, and Shenzhen and Hong Kong for the last week. The class portion of it consisted mostly of company visits, with essay-based assignments, presentation projects, and a large discussion at its culmination. We visited rising companies and innovation hubs, including the Incheon Free Economic Zone, Seoul Government, Jinko Solar, Clean Energy Associates, BYD, and Huawei. In addition to these visits, we were able to attend networking events that allowed us to speak one-on-one with company leaders and attend a clean tech conference exhibition in Shanghai.

Outside of the course, we had lots of opportunities to explore the culture and history of these places. Through planned tours and independent traveling, we were able to experience China and South Korea through all five senses!

Brianna Chan with solar panel

What has been the most impactful experience you’ve had while on this trip? 

The most memorable part of the trip was the people. Ever since I was little, I have had an enormous appreciation for storytelling, and have loved listening to stories about the lives of others. From reading novels and memoirs to meeting the people around me, I have always loved learning more about the world and humanity through the eyes and feet of other people. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience part of a culture and history beyond the US. The diverse Carolina community that I shared this experience with and the relationships I made with my peers impacted me all the more. Being able to actively learn, discuss, and immerse into passions with my peers has given me insight on the power of collaboration and creative compromise. It is so energizing to be in this environment, and I am endlessly inspired and impacted by the kindness, drive, ambition, and passion of the people that I have made lasting friendships with on this trip.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from your experience in China and South Korea?

Through this course, I’ve gained some insight on how the economic, political, and social systems of sustainability work in different places around the world. It is no question that working towards a more equitable and sustainable world is incredibly difficult, but this course has broadly given me some tools for finding ways in which we can all take part in the effort. 

Overall, studying abroad allowed me to grow experientially, culturally, and academically as a person. It put me in a position where I could think outside of the box, challenge myself, apply my learning to real situations, learn more about our diverse globe, and take a step outside of the conventional bounds of education. This unique experience definitely goes beyond what I could ever learn from textbooks.

Students from Burch trip

Do you have any advice for other students who are considering going on this trip?

If you are debating whether or not to enroll in a study abroad experience, my advice is: do it. Even if you do not travel outside of the US, I strongly encourage you to go to a place or community that is unfamiliar to you, because it is incredible to experience how the world works from a different perspective.

The program that I attended was very specific for my academic interests, so I was really able to maximize my learning on this trip. If you are interested in clean technology or the green market in any way, this trip is amazing — it covers the scientific, economic, political, and social aspects of green realms on a global scale. You will learn not only about international relationships regarding these systems, but you will be prompted to start thinking about bigger-picture solutions and applications of your learning.

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