This trip has changed me a very good deal, but mostly in regards to being even more independent. When going abroad you have to decide pretty quickly how you’re going to approach the trip, especially without an adult to guide you. Though we did have a professor with us on the trip, she was not teaching us and was not present very often. As a result, the trip felt very much like a bunch of college-aged kids exploring China and learning Mandarin on their own. I absolutely loved the independence that came with this but it was also a little intimidating having so much free reign.
Since attending this trip, I’m definitely more determined than before to continue learning Mandarin and pursue my minor in it. After having such an intense class for a few weeks and seeing how much I learned I am exceedingly excited to continue learning the language and being able to recognize more characters/understand Mandarin speakers more as I learn.
I have to say that I was extremely surprised by the self discovery that I can succeed in a very intense class just by putting my mind to it and deciding that it’s worth the effort. I didn’t realize I could be quite so successful as I was in the class.
Before coming I was very worried that the cultural differences would be too overwhelming to embrace and that the language would be an incredible barrier. Though of course there were things I had to get used to and there were moments of miscommunication I realized I was not the only one dealing with these issues and I was able to laugh at the mistakes and embrace the new culture as a new way to see the world. It really helped to have other students around me struggling with the same things I was and working through them together. As a result of being able to work through these differences, I now see the world in a very different light. It cool to be able to see how everyday life differs across the world and to learn the norms of a country. It’s been especially interesting in China with the students that came because a number of them are from other countries than the USA so as they make comparisons to their homes I learn about the cultures they grew up in as well.
Probably the greatest benefit of studying abroad has been seeing how the world operates on a daily level and being able to embrace the differences from my life. A lot of the students struggled with trying new things when they first came but I’ve always liked trying new and different things so even coming into this trip I was excited, despite the nervousness.
My favorite memory from this trip will probably be the releasing of the turtles ceremony mostly because of how much fun the group had as a whole. Despite having to get up exceedingly early and go find a market that sells turtles, releasing our newly named turtles and making a wish before they went was really cool. It is a Buddhist tradition and I’m not Buddhist but it was still very cool to experience with all of my classmates.
To future study abroad students: I would highly encourage you to study abroad in general as it’s an incredibly enlightening experience, but I would especially like to stress the convenience and excitement of the dialogue program. I loved the length of my trip, and though it was a bit of a whirlwind trying to see everything that was planned, all of the trips were worth it and extremely exciting. The only advice I would have to prospective study abroad students would be to have an open mind going into any study abroad trip. There WILL be differences between the culture you grew up in and the one you’re studying in, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the trip can become pretty bad pretty quickly if you aren’t willing to at least try new things (food and experiences included). No one is telling you that you have to like these new things but trying them won’t hurt you. And who knows, maybe you will end up loving something you never thought you would!
I would definitely study abroad again, and I plan to. However I might choose a country that speaks a language that I speak so I have less trouble conversing. At the same time, being forced to converse in Mandarin has definitely helped me learn the language more quickly so I would also love to come back to China again and study. Whatever I do, this trip was well worth the money and time and the memories I’ve made here will stay with me forever.