Talking Travel at TEDx

The Study Abroad Center and other campus organizations teamed up in organizing UC Irvine’s first TEDx talk of the year to encourage students to explore opportunities studying abroad.

Jasmine Gutierrez | Photography Intern

Jasmine Gutierrez | Photography Intern

The TEDx ‘GO’ talk was organized as part of UC Irvine’s International Education Week and was held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in Pacific Ballroom C from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The purpose of the talk was to allow students to get perspectives on travelling from those who had studied abroad.

TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, puts on discussions to spread ideas and create discussion and debate. As part of the event, several videos on the merits of travel and discovery were shown, as well as a performance from UC Irvine’s Zamana Dance Crew.

The talk was based on the theme of travel and discovery and featured four guest speakers: Jin Puertollano, a UCI alumnus who graduated in 2010 with a major in economics and a minor in French after studying abroad in France; Kenny Azama, a UCI alumnus who graduated in 2012 with a major in social ecology who traveled to Southeast Asia for 190 days after his graduation; Cissy Wu, a second-year mathematics and quantitative economics double major from China who is currently studying at UC Irvine; and Richard Matthew, associate professor of planning, policy, and design and also the founding head of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at UC Irvine. Each speaker focused on why they felt that students should embrace studying abroad and/or travelling.

Puertollano started the evening with a song called “On Track” that was inspired by his experiences travelling. Later he reflected on his experience studying abroad in Bordeaux, France. Azama went over his trip to Southeast Asia, Wu described her experiences living in a foreign country for four years and Matthew reflected on his interest in travelling and working for the United Nations.

Puertollano travelled to France in Fall Quarter in 2010 as part of his requirements for his French minor. He described how excited he was to go, but after getting to Bordeaux he realized it was not the trip he was expecting.

However, he warned that a person needs to do more than just leave the country to get the full experience as he himself almost lost his experience during his stay in France.

“I started falling into this gradual state of routine. And instead of immersing myself into it I began adapting to it. I had my California friends who all spoke perfect English and I sat all alone in my immersion classes, and to top it all off right after dinner each night I would go straight to my room and Skype with friends and family back home. This perfect image of studying abroad began falling apart.”

However, once Puertollano began to realize he needed to engage himself into French culture, he realized he “found the real France I had been looking for” and encouraged others to discover whatever place interests them.

After Puertollano’s talk, Azama then went over his experience with traveling to Southeast Asia as part of a 150 day trip with his friends. During that time, his group visited 10 countries including Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Azama believes travelling is one of the greatest things a person can do with their life.

“There are so many great adventures out there just waiting for you, and what adventure does is it forces you to step outside your comfort zone and into something different. Once you start travelling you get to see just how colorful the world really is.” Later he added, “travel as a means of education is one of the most important things a person can do with their life, not only to see history come to life but to see, and imagine, and respect another culture’s point of view.”

In order to pay for his trip, Azama had to give up many of his possessions, though he did not regret it. Azama defended his decision to travel after graduation because of the lower costs of goods (food, lodging, travelling, etc.) in Asia.

Wu also encouraged audience members to explore new places. She claimed, “since I left Shanghai my life has never been the same.” She has been studying in the United States for four years starting in 2009.

“Studying in the U.S., I was eager to seize the opportunities to broaden my education, however the cultural conflicts and the loneliness gnawed at me.”

Once she got used to studying and living in a different country she decided to help other students who were having difficulty adjusting to life in a different country.

“I felt like I had to do something so I cofounded an organization which aims to start an initiative among Chinese students in America.”

This organization known as LEAP helps foreign exchange students adapt to life while they study in America. In that way, Wu is helping to encourage other students to study abroad.

After Wu’s talk, Professor Matthew took the mic and began his story. Matthew became a professor after he realized he wanted a career where he could embrace his love for travel and discovery. As he put it, “I loved every aspect of travel” and so he wanted a job that would allow him to embrace his love.

As part of his goal of teaching students about the world, he decided to make an effort to discover it himself. Therefore, he worked with the UN and was part of several missions to war ravaged countries including two missions to Rwanda that he personally led. He urged for students to travel around the world to broaden their perspectives and to engage in opportunities to better the world through programs such as Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross and other Non-Government Organizations.

However, he believes that people should “go and discover that world of possibility and discover who you are.”

After the presentations and videos there was a Q & A session where audience members could ask each presenter questions.

When Matthew was asked what was a final idea he would leave behind for others he once again upheld his opinion and the opinion of the other presenters that everyone who can travel should.

“We are amazing creatures. You can live for 80 years and you can live for 80 years asleep or you can live for 80 years awake and discover that you are amazing.”