Briana Barrett: ‘I Feel More Prepared for My Future Career Because I Have a Stronger Perspective of How Counseling and Mental Health is Viewed Outside of the United States’

Briana Barrett

Program and Location:

Summer, China: Exploring Culture and Education; Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing, China

Major(s)/Minor:

M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I was elated to know that I could travel while pursuing a graduate degree. I had never been outside of the country and I figured, why not now!

What did you learn about yourself?

I learned I can actually be flexible with my time. I often get so caught up in a schedule that I forget to breathe and enjoy the scene around me. Being abroad gave me the chance to slow down and appreciate where I was and where I hoped to go.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

My favorite part of the program was having the opportunity to observe the owner of a small tea shop brew tea for our group! It was such a peaceful environment, and our amazing tour guide, Anita, revealed that it was one of her favorite places to visit in Suzhou.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Be yourself and be safe! I felt reassured knowing the required safety procedures and precautions during my trip and it turned out to be one less thing I had to worry over.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

I feel more prepared for my future career because I have a stronger perspective of how counseling and mental health is viewed outside of the United States than before I left for China.

Were you surprised by anything during your time abroad?

No one talks about the hike required to get to the “photogenic” part of the Great Wall of China! Slowly making my way up the side of a mountain was definitely worth it in the end!

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

The entire trip was non-traditional! We visited three private schools and had the opportunity to teach a lecture to students in elementary, middle, or high school levels. In addition to learning about the private school education systems in China, our group took at least one field trip each day to learn about the history and background of the city in which we were located. We visited temples, Tiananmen Square, tea shops, shopping malls, and of course the Great Wall!

In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?

I identify as a black woman, and having people constantly staring and taking “discreet” pictures of me while I was abroad was a culture shock.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

Take it one day at a time while you are abroad! Regardless of where you are in the world, I believe there is always at least one new thing you can learn about yourself and/or your environment.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

I found support through other students and through my family back home. I almost always had someone to talk to while I was abroad and because our trip was only two weeks, I barely felt homesick.

Would you do it again?

Yes!

This post was originally published in Study Abroad.