I’m heading back to the US on Saturday, which means my study abroad experience is almost officially over. I was talking with another CIEE student and it is really weird to think that it is almost over because studying abroad is something that we had both been talking about with friends and teachers since high school. Studying abroad has had this aura of mystery for so long and now…the mystery has just vanished.
Studying in Shanghai was nothing like I had imagined it to be. I had not expected to develop such a close relationship with my host family or to enjoy living in a city as much as I did. Shanghai is so wonderful and I’m going to miss living here so much! While residents of China’s ancient cities (Beijing, Xi’an, etc.) do not like Shanghai because it does not have a long history, Shanghai is an incredible modern city. Shanghai symbolizes everything China is becoming in the modern era—and it’s fantastic!
I put a lot of pressure on myself, from the beginning, to push myself to become fluent in Chinese. You have all heard the stories of people going abroad and picking up the native language in a few months, and I had expected that to happen. Before coming to China, I thought I knew a lot of Chinese and believed three months of intense studying would push me over the edge. Oh was I wrong. Don’t get me wrong—I have improved a lot. My speed is almost at the level of native speakers and I know a lot more practical words, but my tones and grammar are still hit or miss. Coming to China has really showed me how much farther I have to go to become fluent in Chinese. It’s an exciting challenge though.
I am so grateful for this opportunity from Whitman and my parents to be able to study abroad. Besides the obvious language benefits, I changed a lot as a person abroad. When you are abroad, you have the ability to do a lot more inward reflection because you are alone and much more isolated than in your home environment. I really appreciated that this semester.
If you are ever given the experience to study or live abroad for an extended period of time, do it. Just say yes. It will be one of your best decisions of your life.