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76 posts categorized "Nanjing Language"

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 Compared to China, our public transport is ancient, out of date, inefficient, and needs a lot more improvement.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!

After Nanjing: 2 weeks later

Two weeks after I have returned (I stayed longer in Asia with my actual family, so sorry for the blog delay all!) these are my reflections. I’ll be taking you through some of my thoughts through three of my favorite pictures from the trip.


This is us (some of us at least) at the San Francisco International Airport. It’s still cold. We’re experiencing our last few hours of decent weather before we get into a humid oven, and we don’t even know it. We’re sad to leave our families, or maybe happy. Either way, any thoughts of home don’t compare to how excited we for the adventure that awaits. We’re a bit anxious to get through security but at least we have each other! Each other… oh yeah it’s kinda awkward because we all just met around five minutes ago, huh? Yeah. What was that kid’s name again…? Marie? Oh! Almarie, right…!! She seems nice!! Are we gonna become good friends? Are we all going to know each other pretty well by the end of this trip? I guess we’ll find out...


It is now around the middle of the trip, and I look up at this digital board.. Thing. Wow. Much better than in the states. When is my bus (bus 20!) coming? Oh, it says in the new Mandarin vocan I learned just last week that there are two stops until it arrives! Great. Time to get my wallet out and get my transportation card! Man… why is it so humid. As if the walk from home wasn’t already far.. Ah… Well, at least the red bean soup my host mom gave me for breakfast this morning was pretty good! It’s so peaceful here at the stop, even though there are a lot of people here… I guess people don’t talk to strangers (Sarah I think that’s normal, it doesn’t happen in the States either). Okay but at least everyone here is feelin’ the heat and I’m not the only one who’s sweating… Man I was not expecting it to be this hot here!


“Guys let’s take our last selfie!” I shout, as everyone crowds around my phone opened to the Snapchat app. We’re all having mixed feelings right now. It’s so hot and we’re all gross and sweaty but we don’t want to leave this plaza we’re at even though it’s super humid and ew because it’s our last day!! We don’t want to say goodbye to each other, not after this whole month of growing closer and closer to each other. We realize we may never see each other again… We’re not ready to leave!!

I’m sorry for looking down on the program. I was extremely hesitant to go at first because my first choice was one of the entrepreneurship programs. But, I didn’t want to waste this chance so I took it and took a leap out of my comfort zone. And, when I was catching up with my mom back when the program was over and I was reunited with my family, I realized that I enjoyed the trip so much more than I had expected. I actually had fun learning a completely different language in a completely new place!! What!?? I made friends!! What?? I have a family in China now that I treasure so much!! What?? I feel like a master of public transportation now!! What?? (Especially on that one -- I’m terrible at understanding public transport!!).

Because of this program, my entire view on culture has changed. I realize, admittedly, that I had some pretty negative stereotypes about the Chinese culture before the program, such as China being gross and dirty and a total dump. Well. Maybe not a total dump, but you get the point. Once I got there and really got to experience living in China, I saw how I was totally wrong because it’s so clean and there are even people who sort through trash to recycle goods and etc etc etc! Similarly, one by one, my stereotypes began to be countered and now my view has totally shifted. This would not have happened without being in this program. It also wouldn’t have happened the same way it did if I just independently went to China. Through the program I was able to have a more insightful experience because I stayed with a host family (not a hotel) and Into the Community gave me a chance to converse with locals.

In conclusion, if I could sum up the trip in one word (which is almost not possible do you realize how hard this is??????) it would be: swell. Shoutout to the ones who know me and get the reference. But really though, this trip was super swell in many aspects, not just “i had fun.”. I learned a lot, and grew a lot. Hey, the world is your classroom. Make the most out of it!

-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!

Week 4: Nanjing

On the second to last day of the program, we took a post STAMP test to measure our progress. As I was taking it I literally thought this to myself: Wow, I actually know stuff!

Now, don't get me wrong. I had taken Mandarin for two years before this, but my confidence in my skill was nonexistent. Without realizing it, one month passed and  I not only learned and improved my mandarin speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, but also greatly improved my confidence. In my opinion, confidence is one of the most important factors toward learning a language because 1) often when I’m trying to decide how to say or write something on the spot I have to go with my gut and 2) if you don’t speak confidently people are less likely to take you seriously, especially in China it seems.

Within those four categories I think my speaking improved the most, because my teacher (杨老师)made us talk a ton in class, and everyday our homework would be to interview our host family on some topic (therefore talking), summarize it in our own words (Mandarin, of course) and then orally present in class.

I didn’t expect myself to improve as much as I did. I knew I would definitely get better, but I didn’t expect my speaking skills to improve so much. My writing and reading skills progressed as I expected though. Going forward I’m a bit worried that I won’t have opportunities to practice speaking, and end up forgetting everything. But I do have a pretty great Mandarin teacher at school, so I’m not too worried!

Oh! Also, like I said a few posts ago, language is not a barrier. For example, when I first met my host family, even the limited Mandarin I knew brought us together. Along with my progress throughout the program, I was able to grow even closer to them because of the skills I learned! I talked to them using new vocab and sentence structures (and thoroughly impressed them, might I add) but also made some pretty embarrassing mistakes (which they laughed at me for but kindly corrected me which brought us even closer!!).

The main difference between learning mando in the states and in China is the experience. In China, I was literally learning through every single experience there, whether at my host fam’s house or on the bus ride to school. In the states, I didn’t get the context of what I was learning. It was like, okay, more mando, more words to speak a language that isn’t spoken in commonplace in California. In China, there’s more practicality to what you’re learning (also props to the CIEE curriculum and values which emphasize on usefulness)!!

My favorite experience would be… well, there’s too many, but one I vividly remember is shopping at a huge two floor grocery store with my host sister. I bought so many yummy asian snacks for my family! But, the problem was that my host sister and I had to walk with alllllll of them all the way back to our apartment. In ninety degree humid weather. Phewf.  That was a workout.

Lastly, one of the most vital pieces of the program was the Into the Community section, which I briefly talked about a few blog posts ago. Honestly, I was scared to ask a random citizen some questions with my poor Mandarin skills, but because I was doing it with the rest of my class I was less nervous and became more confident. Actually, out of my classmates I was the one pushing them to ask people questions, which also made me more confident because I would sometimes set the example and it would push me to do my best and not waste the opportunity! In the end, I not only gained confidence (a theme in this post, it seems) but also I got to observe and experience first hand how the Chinese people in Nanjing act when in the public area. It was different than in America because most people (at least where I live) would not even give me a second glance and take time out of their busy day to talk to a kid who barely knows the language. For the Nanjing locals, they stopped to talk to us, or at least most of them did. I won’t lie and say it went smoothly every time. I said “uhhhhhh” a LOT and nervously laughed a TON but most of them were pretty forgiving and my friends were there to back me up. Oh, also our program leader was supervising from a distance in case anything went wrong. Though nerve wracking, the experience was a golden one.

-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!


My first favorite excursion thus far has been going to Shanghai for a weekend. But since I essentially summed that over last blog, we'll talk about my second favorite excursion (and pretend it wasn't in over 100°F weather).

We went to Sun Yat Sen's tomb, as well as the Ming tomb. Dr. Sun Yat Sen was the founder of the Republic of China (not to be confused with the current People's Republic of China). He, and others, helped end the feudal monarchy system in China, laying the groundwork for a democracy.

Here are a few pictures!
Taking a rented bus (大把)! This is different than usual -- usually we just take the subway. It was nice because the bus was well air conditioned.


Arrival! Here’s the gate.


Aaaand on top of it being over 95°F out, we had 392 steps to climb to the top.


But the view was SO worth it. You could see all of Nanjing.

Then, we took these trolleys to the next stop, conveniently nearby -- the Ming Tomb.


Vroom vrooooom


Our brave lead program leader/language instructor leading the way.


In we go….


Looks can be deceiving -- this isn't a turtle. It’s a dragon!


Through a tunnel…


A little dark and creepy, but hey, that’s part of the adventure.




Coming close…




Arrival! A large and spacious and colorful room.


Now to go all the way back!

Aside from my sarcastic comments, and though at the time I didn't enjoy it, two weeks later I look back and think about how this excursion was actually fun. I liked it because we were given time to explore on our own, but not too much so that we got lost or were simply fooling around.

That’s the thing about this program -- they give great balance between your own free time, and time to learn together as a group. Even if it weren't purposely structured to teach us how to be independent, it does so anyways.

We take about one field trip per week, and every single one is different. Some we visit classic historical sites, and some we visit the newer parts of town. From both, we’re given a golden opportunity to not just observe, but also to experience the culture. It’s truly a blessing to be here, and I plan to finish out the last week of the program with no regrets, learning as much as I can from what cannot be taken in at school. After all, the world is our classroom, isn’t it?

-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!

Nanjing Presidential Palace

One field trip last week was to the Presidential Palace. The site has a long history, having been used as for provincial government buildings during the Qing Dynasty, the capitol of the Taiping Rebellion, and the seat of government during the Republican period. Most of the buildings standing today date from the 1920s or 30s.


7.30 gate

The group at the front gate!

Although the buildings are more or less built in a Western architectural style, they are laid out in successive courtyards more reminiscent of Chinese complexes. Today they house exhibits about the history of the site throughout its various stages. Some display historical artifacts such as typewriters from the Republic, while others have been restored as they likely appeared during the Qing Dynasty.


7.30 garden

Enjoying the gardens!

In addition to the buildings, there are some gardens and ponds within the walls of the compound as well. One of the most interesting spots at the Presidential Palace is a stone boat built in the Qing Dynasty. One emperor nicknamed the boat “Untethered Craft” because, being made of stone, it requires no rope or chain to keep it still.


7.30 boat

On the stone boat!

Week 2: Nanjing

People say language is a barrier. But these past two weeks have shown me the very opposite. Because of language I've been able to connect to so many new people and have been able try so many new things that I would not have been able to had it not been for learning Mandarin. I'm really thankful I'm here and can't believe it's half over!

In case you were wondering, this is what a typical day looks like for me:

7:00 - Wake up

7:30 - Eat breakfast with host mom (my host sister wakes up later)


8:00 - Walk to the bus station and take the bus to school. Costs 1.6 kuai or about 23 cents!


9:00 - school startsSarah_h312:00 - Go to lunch. Out of the five weekdays, we have group lunches with everyone in the program on Tuesdays and Thursday's. Then we have individual lunches on Monday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's. We're given 60 kuai as stipend per week for food. We can literally go anywhere and adventure for some good eats!

pictured: my friends and I take on asian McD’s, which provided us with a personal waiter?? Service was amazing. Food tasted about the same but their dessert menu was amazing!! Kind of pricey compared to local eats -- 23 kuai for the whole meal ($3.5 ish)


my friend and I take on a local noodle shop! 14 kuai (about $2) for this dish!

2:30 - Either calligraphy or taichi class.

from my account @waeffles on ig:)

3:30 - Into the community, where we practice mandarin by using it in local life or practicing with the locals. I went to the market and bought this cabbage using my mamdarin!


5:15 - Go home! By bus, but others also go by the subway (which is SO much cleaner and efficient than California’s BART btw…)

6:00 - Eat dinner. My host mom cooks it!

6:45 - Eat fruit (usually watermelon)

7:00 - Take a shower

7:30 - Free time, I usually do homework or look through pictures I've taken on the trip so far.

10:30 - Sleep!

Of course, this is pretty general. Sometimes after lunch we spend the afternoon going on a fieldtrip instead, or in the evening we go out with our host families and do something. Just this past weekend we went to Shanghai! Here are a few pics:

I also went to a cat cafe?? Apparently it’s a big thing here…


My friend is modelinnnnnn’??
local alleyways
Across the Bund, in the Pudong area...
Shanghai street views
cheese milk tea?
We saw a cool acrobatics show -- this act was a bunch of motorcycles driving high speed in a sphere!
Shopping area where we could barter for goods! I got stationery and a pretty silk scarf for my grandma!
My friends and I -- me hiding behind the camera as usual..


Going home via bullet train! Back to Nanjing!

-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!

Trip to Shanghai!


Visiting the Bund!



The picture taken in front of one of the tallest buildings in the world



We are getting excited before watching the fantastic Chinese acrobat!



Touring the Shanghai City Planning Museum


Tianzifang is a shopping paradise with traditional Chinese architecture. We love it!



Calligraphy and Taichii in Nanjing, China

Hello from Nanjing. We are having fun with the Chinese calligraphy and Taichi. Calligraphy1
Learning calligraphy 1 Calligrapgy2
Learning calligraphy 2


Learning the basics 1


Learning the basics 2


Learning the basics 5


Learning the basics 6



Learning Taichi 1

Learning Taichi 2


Learning Taichi 3




Temple, Wall, Lake, Heat

Rather than having cultural classes and Into the Community on Friday afternoon, we had a field trip! The whole group visited three places: Jiming Temple, Ming City Wall and Xuanwu Lake. The three are all clustered together so it was easy for us to visit all three in one fell swoop.

7.15 jiming entrance

At the entrance of Jiming Temple


Jiming Temple is a Buddhist temple that covers the southern side of a steep hill. It has multiple buildings with statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As we climbed the stairs from one building to another, Zhu Laoshi explained to participants the history of the temple and how Buddhists pray at the temple.

7.15 jiming stairs

Lots of stairs!

7.15 jiming incense

Learning about incense burning


Leaving the temple from the rear exit we immediately came out on top of the Ming City Wall. It's one of the biggest and most complete city walls in China and overlooks the city on one side and Xuanwu Lake on the other. Xuanwu Lake is a large lake with several islands connected by bridges. We got to walk from the southern end of the lake to the western end by walking from island to island. By the end of that everyone was good and sweaty since it was over 90°F!

Orientation, Program Overview, Tour university neighborhood and Nanjing food!


We are visiting Nanjing University!



Welcome to  Nanjing!


Meeting new friends! 


We are waiting for the lunch in a Nanjing restaurant. Let's take some tea first!


What a beautiful Chinese restaurant!




Nanjing food is on the way!



By  Yu laoshi