My time in China has felt like a dream. Did I actually ride a bike for the first time in Guilin Province? Did I learn how to order food in Chinese? Did I intern at an international company? Have I made Chinese friends? Have I really been in China for 5 and half months?
Looking back on my semester abroad, I’ve accomplished a lot things, and everything that has happened to me has been an experience. Coming to China has been a childhood dream of mine, and the fact that I made it a reality is surreal.
In these last few months I have been able to do things that I never thought I could or would do. In Beijing, I walked along the Great Wall of China and became friends with a family that greeted me by saying “Hello Laowai!”
I was able to see huge ice replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa when Harbin’s Ice Town came to Shanghai.
By the end of my hot pot dinner in Chengdu my lips were swollen and twice their size thanks to the spicy chili broth.
Finally the biggest challenged I overcame was not getting sick as I climbed Mt. Hua Shan, one of the most dangerous mountains in the world.
The fact of the matter is, China is a country that brings a unique twist to the typical study abroad experience. In China, there is a complex language, a different standard of living and it brings students a whole new appreciation for not only their home country, but for China as well.
Before I arrived in China, I already had a fascination about the country but living here has taught me how to survive in China. China has taught me to step out of my comfort zone and do things that I would never do back in the United States.
This semester I participated in a study aboard program through my university with 30 other students. We are the largest group of students the program has ever had and it’s because the amount of Americans studying abroad in China is increasing.
Thanks to the 100,000 Strong initiative founded by the U.S. State department, in the last 4 years over 100,000 American students have studied abroad in China. This number will hopefully keep on increasing because American students are leaving China with a positive experience.
This semester has been full of good days and bad days but over all, my experience in China has been phenomenal. I have been able to learn a new language, gain some amazing working experience, and live in a society completely different than my own. I hope more Americans will take the plunge and come to China.