Why did I choose to study abroad?
Studying abroad in Beijing this summer was actually a very difficult decision for me. Since I’m planning to graduate a year early, my summers in between fall and spring semesters are limited. Last summer, I participated in a research program, and this summer is my last before completing my undergraduate career. A part of me felt that I should pursue an internship in the U.S. instead, so it would help me gain work experience before possibly searching for a job after graduation. Plus, studying abroad is expensive, and it takes a lot of work just applying and preparing for it!
Despite this, however, I decided this summer would be the best opportunity for me to go, especially since I’m not able to fit a year-long or semester-long study abroad into my regular academic-year schedule. Additionally, this opportunity helps me learn and better understand the culture of my birth. Even though I’m generally interested in Chinese culture, a big factor is because of my adoption from Xiamen, China. I believe committing myself to this abroad program will help me gain confidence in speaking Chinese, traveling internationally, and dealing with unfamiliar places and people. I also hope I can apply my credits toward a minor in Asian Languages and Literatures when I return. If nothing else, I’ll be able to see China with my own eyes and create my own memories that aren’t told secondhand from adoption photos and stories. Besides, when will I have another chance to study language in China for two months? Although I’m nervous about being so far away from friends and family, I am glad I made this decision.
What challenges do I expect to face?
Many! I am more nervous than I put on. I think the biggest challenge will be adapting to life in Beijing during my first two weeks. Another problem I’m worried about is how I am perceived by local people. Although I’ve read and heard about Asian Americans being looked at funny or treated differently, I can still see myself feeling sad about not meeting local expectations. Perhaps being adopted from China and not knowing much about my place of birth adds another layer, but I think Asian Americans, whether adopted or not, feel a similar pressure to be fluent and knowledgeable.
Some other of my worries includes bargaining, illness, air pollution, transportation and the squat toilets. Dun dun dun! I hope my roommate can help me shop the first couple times we go out and about. I do not have much experience with bargaining, and from the little that I do, I am not very good at it. I think it may help me to think of it as a game. The other day, I managed to do well at Coup, a bluffing card game, so perhaps I’ll become an expert bargainer by the time the program ends. haha. Air pollution and illness are somewhat related. Bottom line: becoming sick or fatigued is not fun for anyone, anywhere. Also not knowing where to go or getting lost is a common fear, but it seems even scarier when it’s in a foreign country! Lastly, using a squat toilet is definitely something I’m not used, so I only hope I can quickly learn how to use it or be in an area with western toilets when I need to go. haha.
What are my goals?
My ultimate goal is to be able to speak Chinese confidently. I do not believe I’ll become fluent, but I want to be able to hold a conversation without stopping every sentence to ask what the other person means or telling them I don’t understand or shyly staying quiet even though I think I might be able to know what to say.
Other goals include learning new ways of living and gaining more of an appreciation of how much the world can offer. I also hope to return from study abroad with a better sense of what I take for granted, whether it’s my family, friends, living conditions, or opportunities. Lastly, although I want to return to Xiamen someday on a separate journey to China, I hope I am able to learn more about my emotions (good or bad) about being adopted and being in the country of my birth.
After starting the program, my goals may change as well as the challenges that I think I’ll face. I hope whatever comes my way, I am able to stay strong, do my best, and keep an open mind with a loving heart.
For those who are reading, thank you! Even though this is more of a personal blog, I appreciate your time and interest in my posts. I hope to update my blog weekly during my study abroad, but it will depend on scheduling and internet access. 加油!