Learning to Problem Solve

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Studying abroad is one of the best learning experiences for a student out there. It can teach a person so many different things. Not just about the world at large, but about themselves as well. One of the biggest skills I have noticed that many students learn, is problem solving skills.

Every study abroad student goes to their respective country not knowing what will be in store for them. Immediately they will find themselves presented with challenge after challenge. Most the time these challenges are small like trying to figure out how to ask an employee for something. But when every part of everyday life is filled with these little challenges, they begin to add up.

Over time, students begin to learn how to quickly solve problems to fix their situations. One such example comes to mind. I was in the middle of an airport, and had forgotten the pin on my debit card, my only source of money. I had no SIM card or computer to work off of. And I needed to withdrawal money within 3 hours. I was presented with a challenge and had to figure it out with multiple difference handicaps.

My first thought was I needed to get online somehow so I could log onto my account. This presented another set of problems. I didn’t know the password to my account, as it was saved only onto an online password saver, which could only be accessed by a desktop. So my phone with wifi wouldn’t help me in this situation.  I walked around to survey the airport and found a computer station that was open to the public. I jumped on and spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to switch the language from Chinese to English. Once that was done, I logged into my online password storage, and grabbed the password. Then I logged onto my account and took down all the information I needed, as well as the phone number for the company.

The next step was to figure out how to actually initiate the call without any minutes or even a SIM card. I decided to use Facebook for this. (In retrospect I could have used Skype and just bought a couple of minutes, but hindsight is 20/20). Facebook had the slight problem of only being able to call other Facebook members. So I called my parents who were still in the US. I then gave them the number to call, and they set the phones up next to one another on speaker phone to complete the call. It was a crazy tactic, but it worked, I got my account reset and was able to get the money I needed.

Crazy little challenges like this happen every day. In the U.S. it would have been a simple procedure to call the company and reset my account. In another country however, it often times requires problem solving with trial and error. It requires growth and learning. And that is one of the biggest gains that studying abroad can bring. No matter how the experience unfolds, it teaches lifelong lessons and better prepares everyone to face the uncertain and random world.

Author: Kurt A

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