Hiram Rios is a graduating senior studying Economics and International Studies with a minor in Chinese Language. While at USF, he has participated in four study abroad programs, including “China: Learning in the Culture Tier I,” “China: History and Culture” with the Honors College, “Germany: Beyond the Classroom,” and the State Department’s “Critical Language Scholarship” program in Suzhou, China. Additionally, he has received four national scholarships to fund his studies including an $80,000 international affairs fellowship that includes a five-year contract in his dream career in the Foreign Service. Furthermore, he has a received a Boren National Security Scholarship and a Gilman International Scholarship.
What are the top reasons you decided to study Chinese?
Music was my first passport to China. I have played violin for over a decade now, and when I was 14 years old I was offered a spot performing in the ‘Salute to the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ orchestra in China. Prior to that experience I knew little about China, but after performing at and touring the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, and Olympic Plaza in Beijing as well as the Bund in Shanghai, a Pandora’s Box of curiosity had opened. Therefore, my top reasons for studying abroad in China while at USF were the opportunity to re-live those cherished memories, to get a more in depth look at the history and philosophy I had studied, and most importantly, to master the Chinese language in pursuit of employment with the U.S. Foreign Service.
If you were to compare yourself now to who you were before studying abroad, how are you different?
It is undeniable that study abroad transforms a person. In my eyes, I have grown into a different person after each and every study abroad opportunity as I learn and integrate positive aspects of each culture I visit into my life. When I first came back from performing in the Olympic Orchestra in 2008, I felt myself consumed in a hunger for knowledge and a curiosity for adventure that I had never experienced before. That trip opened the floodgates to ‘freedom’ in the sense that fear never holds me back from exploring new places (domestically or outside of the U.S.). Now I am prone to taking weekend trips around Florida, or even to D.C. or New York. After returning to China in 2013 for two USF programs and an independent study, I returned with a renewed discipline and appreciation for balance. I began meditating as a way to control stress and found myself working at 110%, which even then felt little compared to my course load in China. From my trip to Germany and subsequent return to China, I gained an increased interest in international politics, and now I find myself reading more from Xinhua News, Der Spiegel, the China Morning Post, and the Shanghaiist than I read on Facebook. Every student will have a different experience abroad, but I personally developed myself cognitively and feel that I am more independent, mature, informed, curious, and confident than ever before.