This semester has been filled with me constantly saying, “I can’t.” Honestly, I have surprised myself in more ways than one. Being back home in Texas, I have had time to reflect on my semester abroad in China.
“I can’t do this!” I exclaimed at the airport on my way to Washington D.C. and then Beijing. It was my first time flying to China by myself without my parents. Going through security clearance in Houston, I watched my parents waving at me behind the glass panel. It was the start of my big adventure, the beginning of my study abroad experience. I was going to a completely new environment with new people. Little did I know that I would have an amazing time. I can recall walking down Beijing streets arm in arm with my friends from IES Abroad. I had no idea I’d be able to say I biked around the center of Beijing or visit the city where I was born.
“Oh no, I don’t think I can go!” I nervously pronounced to my IES Abroad classmates in Yunnan when we had to hike up and down a mountain. Suddenly, a classmate grabbed my hand and gave me confidence that together we could do this. When the moutain got steeper, my friends took turns holding my hand and my shoulder so I would have support just in case I fell. Needless to say, If I fell, we all would.
“I really don’t think I can do this alone!” I said to my roommate and anyone who would listen. I was very nervous on the four-hour train ride to Wuhu from Beijing when I had to transfer in Nanjing. I even told my professor who explained the high speed trains to me that I didn’t think I could travel by myself. Not only did he give me his phone number, we also exchanged We Chat contact information. He assured me that if anything went wrong, he should be the first one I should call. And my roommate, of course. Despite what I thought, traveling within China was very easy and I made a lot of new friends along the way. I learned that even though my Chinese isn’t the best, help and people who care are everywhere. I met many friendly faces- also a few unfriendly people along the way, but that’s life, right?
“I really, really can’t do this!” I said to my tutor and everyone who would listen to my complaints when we all woke up at 3:30 AM to hike up a mountain to an unrestored part of the Great Wall. My tutor grabbed my hand and even pushed me up the mountain from behind. Others joined in the “Help me up the mountain cause.” Everyone was so supportive that when I reached the top, people started clapping for me! I held so many hands, and a friend even walked down backwards holding my hands so I would feel safe going down the mountain.
From all these experiences I’ve had abroad and more, I realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. Call it cliche, but depending on myself has taught me a lot. Like everything else though, I wasn’t able to have such an amazing study abroad experience without the help and the patience of others. Sure, I still have moments when I doubt myself, but studying abroad taught me that I could do things I never thought possible. I learned a lot about the country I came from and gained a greater appreciation for the people and the traditions they treasure. Plus, how many people can say they’ve eaten a scorpion, been on a 34-hour train ride, woken up at 3:30 AM to hike up the Great Wall, were welcomed by an entire village in Yunnan, and so much more!?!