Xiaoao Dong: Do What You Love, Love What You Do
It is said that life is a trip and the world is a book; and those who do not travel read only a page. Coming from China, living in Austria and travelling all over the world, Xiaoao Dong is probably the best person to give advice on internationalism. If you ever doubt whether experience matters, do not let yourself be troubled… After all, it is one of the things you cannot get for free. Xiaoao’s final message? Explore. Dream. Discover. And live your life to your fullest potential.
Are you ready for a journey of a lifetime?
Perspectives (PP): Xiaoao, apart from your open-minded character, is there anything else that has helped you accept the others for who they truly are, regardless of their differences? To put it straight: do you have any secret advice on how to ‘go international’?
Xiaoao Dong (XD): I do not think it is only the character that makes you sincerely understanding. In order to approach people both personally and professionally, one simply needs to have a certain amount of experience. Getting to know people from all over the world and subsequent networking have become my greatest passions, but I remember being very shy and overwhelmed in the beginning. That is human: it takes some time to learn how to talk to strangers. And my own secret? Always aim at new challenges, and never be afraid to try out the things which may seem difficult at first sight. Believe me, in the process of doing them, the right solutions will unfold. And do not forget that it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.
PP: Can you tell us more about your own Joint Study international experience? What was it like to spend your exchange semester in Hong Kong?
XD: My Hong Kong exchange is something I will never forget. Due to the fact that I am Chinese, I did not have any serious culture shock. However, I remember how disoriented, stressed out and annoyed my fellow exchange students sometimes felt!
I have to say that people in Hong Kong are really open-minded and speak English very well, unlike some of the inhabitants of the Chinese mainland. Nevertheless, they are still Chinese, so one has to be ready for loud, funny and sometimes childish treatment :). I loved to observe my colleagues from both worlds (Ed. Europe and Asia) and watch their reactions to one another’s behaviour.
Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed while staying in Hong Kong was travelling. Southeast Asia is just amazing, and travelling around is not as expensive as many Europeans think. I remember one trip to the Philippines with the return flight tickets for around €70. During that trip we stayed on our own island for three days. This place was literally heaven on Earth… Just imagine the salt water pools, snorkelling possibilities as well as great local food… all day long.
PP: I know that you have experienced the other side of the exchange lifestyle, too… can you tell us more about your buddies?
XD: For those who do not know, the buddy programme is a voluntary service that has been established for exchange students in order to help them with the orientation, paperwork or basically anything else after their arrival in the host country. Buddy is the name given not only to a home student, but also to an exchange student. All in all, I have experienced the buddy programme from both sides.
I have been working as a buddy at my home university in Austria since the first year of my studies. And I have never regretted my decision to join the ESN (Ed. International Office – Erasmus Student Network) team! The exchange students I took care of came from France, Slovakia, Hong Kong, Germany, Bulgaria, Vietnam and the USA. And I must say they were the most unusual guys! A girl from Bulgaria was really shy and even cried in the beginning of her stay. On the other hand, a guy from California used to run around the Main Square in Graz with the American flag, completely naked!
PP: What is the main advantage of being a part of a big student organization? In what way can students actually benefit from it?
XD: I personally believe that joining a big student organization is a life-changing experience in itself. I used to be a team leader of the outgoing exchange team in AIESEC, which means that I was responsible for the people going on internships abroad. Although it was not always easy as it involved many responsibilities, I am really proud of what I achieved. I have learned that every person counts.
The best thing about AIESEC is that you actually get much more than you can give. The huge (inter)national conferences that I had a chance to take part in helped me believe in myself more. Through various talks, panel discussions and presentations I was able to develop my leadership skills, too. In fact it was thanks to AIESEC that I met many different people who made me the person I am today.
PP: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
XD: One of my ultimate goals is to travel around the world. Getting to know different cultures is simply the most interesting thing for me :). And when it comes to my professional life, I just know that I want to enjoy what I am doing, regardless of the circumstances. I found out that the most important thing is to believe in what you are doing and then success will come… that is the way it works, and not the other way around.
Xiaoao Dong has been working as Marketing Manager and Vice-CEO of Asiahouse Restaurant in Vöcklabruck, Upper Austria since September 2012. He received his BA degree in Business Administration after graduating from the Karl-Franzens University of Graz. He is currently working on his MA degree in Business Administration and second BA degree in Economics. He has been working for ESN (International Exchange – Erasmus Student Network) since 2009. Since 2013, he has been a part of IdeenTriebwerk Graz, which is a supporting organization for Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups. Furthermore, he was an AIESEC team member from March 2012 until March 2013. He is currently working as a volunteer for Caritas, a social institution backing immigrants and socially deprived people in Austria.
All pictures have been posted by courtesy of Xiaoao Dong.
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