For Unique Burton '13 of Boston, Mass., who will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in international business, study abroad was essential. So, on the advice of a professor, she spent a semester in China, as one of four MCLA students to attend the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade (SIFT) this past fall.
Last spring, Burton (pictured above in the red pants and below, on the far right), realized she had not taken full advantage of her college experience and made the decision to study in China because she felt like it would be one of the most "shocking" places to study, culturally speaking.
And, it was. "From the food, to the scenery, to the people."
"I must say, it was worth it," Burton continued. "Above all, culture interests me most about China and studying at SIFT. Having the ability to soak in and experience life in a completely different culture is quite amazing."
She took seven classes: basic Chinese, Chinese culture, international trade payment, international trade practice, Chinese financial systems, supply chain management and "How to do Business in China."
"Our world is so connected to the point where learning how to work internationally with one another is crucial, especially in the business world," Burton said. "By taking these courses I think I have developed a more open mind, now with the ability to see things from both an American point of view and a Chinese one."
This "life-changing" experience included studying with other college students from around the world, including South America, Mexico, Europe and Africa.
"Our biggest difference was language," she said. "Other than that, I think we all are quite similar."
Because the exchange students lived on a campus different than the one where SIFT's Chinese students stay, Burton socialized mostly with those who came to Shanghai from other countries. She and her MCLA roommate spent most of their time with students from Mexico, France and Germany.
According to Burton, China best fits into a global economy through foreign trade and international business ventures. "I believe that all countries should work to preserve jobs within their own countries, as opposed to outsourcing," she said.
In addition to visiting a small city named Suzhou, which is famous for its beautiful gardens, Burton enjoyed the Chinese night life, multiple networking opportunities and its black markets.
Her first time abroad, "Now I want nothing more to be seasoned traveler," she said.
Study abroad is an "absolute must" for all college students, she said.
"The world is so much bigger than the United States ... You need to experience that. Open your mind. Living in another country is worth more than simply visiting. It will change your outlook on life," Burton advised.
About to begin her final semester at MCLA, she also urges students to take advantage of everything that the College has to offer. "At times, things are brought to your attention so you have to go and look. Then, act on everything you possibly can!
"I feel like college is a transition period from a teen to a young adult," she continued. "Above all, my mindset has changed. I have grown closer to the person I want to be in the future. Everything is becoming that much more real."