I remember when I thought I could dig a hole to China. I would dig and dig for hours on the beach in Florida hoping I could make a hole deep enough to reach the country that I was born in.
Now, although I didn’t crawl through a hole to reach China, I have seen the country I was born in after only hearing things about it. Thinking back on my three months in China, it’s hard to remember each moment. I try to show people pictures of what I have done, but it can’t encompass what I have experienced.
People ask, “how was China?” but I don’t know what to say. It’s unexplainable, and if I really wanted to try to explain it, I would have to sit down and think about it before responding.
The most important thing I took away from being in China was my idea of China before I went and after. Before, I didn’t have any idea what it would be like. It sounded dirty and crowded, but I still felt pulled to go because it’s where I was born.
Before I went to China, I had a million worries. I was worried that I wouldn’t like authentic Chinese food. Even though I had studied Chinese for six and a half years, I was afraid to speak Chinese because I was embarrassed that even though I look like I should be able to speak Chinese, I could barely say a word.
I remember my first night in Shanghai, and how uncomfortable I was because I felt like my Chinese had to be perfect before I could try to speak with other people.
As this semester has gone by, I have learned so much. I have learned that Shanghai is one of the cleanest cities I have ever been to. There are people sweeping the streets all the time. I have learned that although some places like the penguin exhibit at the Shanghai aquarium are so crowded that you have to push and shove to see the penguins (all the more fun in my book), Shanghai is not that crowded, or maybe I have gotten used to all the Chinese quirks.
For example, I was worried about the inconvenience of not having a dryer to dry my clothes. In the end, I like air drying my clothes. There is something soothing about taking my clothes off the drying clips.
I have also learned to love authentic Chinese food. It’s nothing like sweet and sour chicken, but it’s so much better. I’m eager to find all the authentic Chinese restaurants in America, so that I can at least get a taste of all the delicious food I have eaten in China.
I have learned to push through my fear. I came to China to practice my Chinese, not to make myself feel bad for not being perfect. I realized that I am never going to be perfect at speaking Chinese, but it’s okay. I just have to practice every step of the way without being afraid to make mistakes. People are just excited that I even try to speak Chinese to them.
I have learned to be the exchange student, so when I get back to Lehigh, I’m going to treat exchange students the way I wanted to be treated. I’m going to practice Chinese with them. I’m going to join to Global Union club on campus. I’m going to enjoy Pennsylvania the same way I enjoyed Shanghai. Every weekend, we would explore different cities or different places in Shanghai, so why shouldn’t I do that in my college town?
I have big plans for myself, and it’s not stopping once I get home. America is my home, but China has made home homier.
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<p>Hi all! My name is Lucy Swett, and I am a sophomore at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. I am majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Chinese. I was adopted from Hubei China, when I was one year old, raised in the United States, and now I am excited to go back for the first time! I hope you join me in my adventure!</p>