International Spotlight: Abby Millner ('16)

Published on Oct 13, 2015
Center, Abby Millner Center, Abby Millner

By Neal Steichen (MFA '17)

Chicago native Abby Millner (’16) is a senior Communications major with a focus in marketing. Abby is currently studying abroad at Tongji University in Shanghai, China through Columbia’s exchange program.

How do you pass time not in classes?
When I am not in class, I am trying my best to experience all I can in China. Whether it's staying on campus—which is really is like a town, with it’s own mall, theater, and so on—riding my bike to a near by small town, or taking the train for about an hour and a half into downtown.

What inspired you to study abroad? Why did you specifically want to go to Shanghai?
Why not study abroad? Anyone who has the option should absolutely take it. Why not China? The point of studying abroad is to experience something completely different, right? I don't think there's anything more different to Americans than China. The amount of things I have learned is immeasurable and I've only been here for just over a month. 

A meal in Shanghai

How has life at Columbia benefitted or influenced your time in Shanghai?
I think Columbia, specifically, has helped me very much in my experience here. At Columbia, you learn how to be flexible, adjust, and embrace differences. The past three years at Columbia I have learned so much about differences and how amazing they are. That only was proved further after spending some time in China.

What, so far, has been the best/coolest part of studying abroad? Anything exciting you are looking forward to?
Just about every single thing that has happened has been nothing but amazing. But my favorite is being clueless. I love the feeling of having no idea what is going on and reminding myself I really don't know everything and that I have so much to learn. Sometimes you walk into a room of 100 people eating something like chicken feet and you're the only English speaker. How is that not amazing? I'm looking forward to more experiences like that. We're going to Beijing next month and Xitang (an ancient town built on the intersection of nine rivers) next weekend, so I'm very excited for travels like that as well.


Are you receiving any grants, awards, or other types of financial assistance for your program abroad?
I'm just using some great student/parent loans to pay for my time here. We are supposed to be getting a fairly decent scholarship from the Chinese government to help with living expenses within the next couple weeks. Fingers crossed! However, if you can afford Columbia, you can definitely afford China. This semester will actually cost me significantly less than if I was in Chicago. I'm actually saving money! 

You can follow all of Abby’s adventures at