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One Month After Nanjing

I can’t believe it’s already been a month. Honestly, did I even go to China?

It feels like a dream. When I got back to the US, school started a week later, and it feels like summer never even happened. It’s really like it was just a wonderful dream, one that I can’t go back to.

But then, I live life, and the randomest things remind me of my time in China. Like, I almost forgot how to use public transportation because I was so used to China’s (more efficient and just better overall) transportation. Or, when I was walking to school and it was a warm day and it reminded me of my route to school when I was in Nanjing. Or when I was at a restaurant and the atmosphere was just… quieter than all the other restaurants I went to in Nanjing. Or… when I went to the mall and all the stores were overpriced. Seriously, why is everything so expensive here now?? Was it always like this?? I miss China prices...

Then there are those moments in Mandarin class. On the first day of school I identified a new word lightning fast and all my friends were like “Whoaaa when did Sarah get so good at Mandarin?? I should go to China for a month” and I had my own 15 seconds of fame. Or when I’m in class and the way my teacher says things in class remind me of a certain lesson in one of the classes in Nanjing. Now in class I’m a little more confident. Of course, in the one month between Nanjing and school I got a little rusty and I wish there were more opportunities for me to practice but nonetheless, as I go to Mandarin class more and more I’m starting to remember more and more. I can understand what my teacher and classmates are saying in class better now, and I definitely know a ton of new words that I try to incorporate in my assignments more. I’m more fluent, but since we just got back into the school rhythm I’m still remembering all that I learned and transporting it into the classroom.

The main thing that has changed about how I view the US now is, well, I can clearly see how lacking we are in California in terms of public transportation. Compared to China, our public transport is ancient, out of date, inefficient, and needs a lot more improvement. From my time in China, I’ve been inspired to find better ways for transportation. I don’t know how I can make a difference, but now it’s something I’m more aware of and am open to look into as an adult/as a career.

Also, have you ever heard the saying that learning about a new language teaches you more about the language you know best? I can testify that that is absolutely true. In China, the more I learned about Mandarin, the more I learned about English. It’s kind of funny and counter-intuitive, but it’s actually really accurate.

Overall, the main thing I learned was this: It’s what you make of it.

There were some kids on the program that often time liked to complain about the really hot heat, or when a program leader made a mistake. I can shamefully say that was me at times. But after the first week there, I realized that time was going fast, and if I wasn’t going to make the most out of every moment, the program would end without me getting anything from it, without me learning and making connections with others. I would waste this golden, radiant and shining opportunity. I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals for the program, I needed to change my attitude. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit? Well, then I would take it easy and learn how to compensate with it so I wouldn’t miss being really present in the moment and socializing with my program friends and host family. I wouldn’t miss enjoying the super yummy food, and breathtaking sights. My mindset was that I was already blessed enough to go on this program, and there were so many people cheering for me at home and supporting me, so all that was left was to enjoy and learn. Once I changed my thinking, the program was way less complain-y for me and much more enjoyable and full of learning experiences, even when things weren’t going exactly how I planned or expected.

Really, it’s what you make of it. It feels like a dream that I was able to go, and my time there has really made a difference in my life now. While this is goodbye for the blog, it’s not goodbye for the things I learned along the way.

Thanks for reading!

-Sarah H.

'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!

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