Ask most students what they’d like to do in the distant future and traveling is bound to be among their goals. However, senior Liam Kierans has already traveled extensively. Kierans, who has dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States, has attended English-language international schools in Russia, Brazil, Iceland, and Holland because of his parents’ occupation in the foreign service. Most recently, he returned from a 10-month stay in China as a part of a study abroad program. Kierans praises China as his favorite destination yet.
“It was just so different than anything I’ve ever seen,” Kierans said. “I think your vision of the planet isn’t complete until you’ve visited Asia, and China tends to be the poster child of that continent. Its rich culture and complicated politics make it a ridiculously cool and fun place to go. I don’t think you’ve really experienced China unless you have lived there, though. There’s just too much to it.”
Prior to his stay, Kierans had no knowledge of the language, but learned while he lived with a host family. He found Chinese easy to speak, due to the uncomplicated grammar, but reading the language was more difficult.
“It was hard to communicate at first. My host mother only spoke a little English. I had to study it for two hours every day at school,” Kierans said. “I pretty much had it down by January.”
Among his favorite parts of the culture were the holidays and festivals.
“I liked all of their little holidays,” Kierans said. “Chinese New Year was really fun. I got to spend it with my Chinese family. We set off fireworks and made food.”
Kierans values traveling and the new perspectives it provides.
“One of the most important things these days is getting a more worldly view,” Kierans said. “You need to get out of your bubble. I think traveling isn’t something you just do; it’s a lifestyle. You can physically move to a place, or you can actually go somewhere and be part of it. It isn’t for everyone, but if you can manage to do it then there is a plethora of rewards.”
Kierans reflected upon some of the differences he encountered when studying abroad – in particular, the field trips.
“Field trips were a lot different when I went to school in Moscow,” Kierans said. “We went to Siberia. It was the eighth grade field trip; we got to go rafting and lived like they did. In China, we visited remote places where they’ve never seen foreigners before.”
Kierans’ traveling will come to a pause following high school, as he is planning on attending college in the United States.
“I’m applying to Virginia state schools,” Kierans said. “Not moving for a while is nice.”