A Travellerspoint blog

Two Years Later

Reflecting on my time in China

This year I am serving as a student ambassador for the 100,000 Strong Foundation, a foundation that seeks to “strengthen US-China relations through educational exchange and the study of Mandarin language” by encouraging more American students to study abroad in China. Throughout the coming months I will be completing three projects to share my own experience studying in China and encourage others to do the same. This blog post, a reflection on my experience in China and the almost two years since I have returned, is my first project.


I've been back from China for just a few months less than two years, but if you ask any of my friends at school, they'll tell you that I still talk about China way too much. I love talking about my experiences in China, and sharing stories whenever I can, but I rarely take the time to reflect on what I gained during my time in China and how my life is different now than it would have been otherwise. This project is the perfect opportunity for me to think about what my experience in China means for me, and why I believe so strongly that others should also take the opportunity to study abroad, learn Chinese, or visit China.


To start, I'll make a list of things I miss from my time in China:

1. My host family. I always tell people that one of my favorite parts of my time in China was the opportunity to live with a host family. My ten months in China were made even more meaningful by the opportunity to spend them with an absolutely wonderful Chinese family.

2. Speaking Chinese all day, every day. I have opportunities to speak Chinese now that I'm back in the US--I'm taking a Chinese class and have friends at school with whom I can speak Chinese--but there is nothing as exciting as being fully immersed in the challenges of learning a totally new language.

3. Chinese food. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory; Chinese food in the US just doesn't measure up.


4. My friends, not only from China but from all around the world. By studying abroad with NSLI-Y/AFS, I was given the unique opportunity of studying alongside my Chinese classmates in their own high school but also alongside other exchange students from around the world. I still keep in touch with some of my friends from my time abroad, and I really enjoyed getting to know even the friends who I no longer talk to often.

5. Being able to commit myself fully to learning Chinese and learning about China. While I love college and I love having the opportunity to be involved in a million different things at once, it was refreshing and exciting to be able to devote myself fully to one thing that I am passionate about. There is certainly a lot I don't understand about China and a lot of Chinese I still don't know, but I certainly learned a lot in the nearly one year I spent in China.

6. Travelling. I absolutely loved visiting places like Xi'an, Yunnan, and Beijing, and I would love to see more of China. China is an incredibly diverse place with an immensely long history, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to see its wonders firsthand.


In many ways, I think that my experience in China has significantly affected who I am today.

Academically, since returning from China I have been able to maintain my interest in China and excitement for the Chinese language by taking Chinese classes or classes about China every semester since beginning college. While I certainly could have taken these classes even if I hadn't gone to China, I don't think I would have, and I also wouldn't have had the rich experiences from living in China that have helped me to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese history and the Chinese language. In my Anthropology of China last semester, it was exciting to be able to connect the trends we studied in class to my own experiences with my host family, classmates, and teachers.

Personally, I think I benefited from studying in China in several ways. By going abroad for a year just after graduating high school, I think I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and therefore gained maturity and independence that I would not necessarily have developed had I gone straight to college. At the same time, being pushed out of my comfort zone was fun. I swear. I don't think I can possibly overstate how much I enjoyed the challenges of travelling to my host dad's rural hometown, eating scorpions in a night market in Beijing and chicken feet in my school cafeteria, studying dozens of new vocab words every day, and giving speeches in Chinese in front of Chinese students and their parents.

That's not to say that every challenge I encountered in China was fun. When I first got to China and was confronted with incredibly long school hours and a lack of flexibility, I certainly didn't feel like I would gain anything by persevering. Still, despite the times I was unhappy or wished I was home, when I left China ten months later I wanted nothing more than to find a way to go back.

When I think back on my experience in China now, my reflections are overwhelmingly positive: I loved the experience. I want to continue learning Chinese. I want to find a way back to China. I want to share my experience with others. More than anything else, I feel that my time in China was undoubtedly worthwhile.

I think the fact that most attests to how much I value my experience in China is that, after returning home from my first six-week study abroad program, I chose to go back for another year. Plus, it makes a great fun fact for introducing yourself at club meetings in college.


Posted by ccole 19:05

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