I decided to write a pre-departure blog to remember I felt preparing to go abroad for the first time and hold myself accountable for the things I want to experience and accomplish in China.
I am nervous about a few things. The most prominent is how I am clumsy in every sense of the word. It often provides laughs in addition to frustration, but I’m apprehensive about how it will play out in a different country.
Second: my race. I’ve been warned about people, mostly in the rural parts of China, being fascinated by my hair and possibly my skin. My fro covered my ears, so I had to cut my hair to take a approved visa photo. I felt really helpless in that situation, and it heightened my concern about the exhaustion of people being intrigued by my features.
Third: the language barrier. I have taken two semesters of Mandarin, but I am unsure of how similar the dialect in Kunming will be to Mandarin. Also, it takes me a very long time to formulate responses in a free-flowing conversation. That being said, I love learning Chinese and with my low proficiently comes a lot of opportunity to improve.
I feel unprepared, but not in a negative way. I just don’t think that I can ever be fully prepared. I’m excited by the unknown and knowing I will grow in ways unimaginable to me currently. Spending last summer in Tampa has made me comfortable with those feelings and going to China steps it up a notch.
I’ve wanted to study abroad since middle school, so preparing to do so is surreal. I always envisioned myself going to Europe until I took Food in Chinese Culture my first year of college, so I am most excited to experience a culture that unexpectedly captivated my interest; I enrolled in that class because it was about food and satisfied a gen ed. It’s amazing to see how a random class has transformed my perspective and goals. This is the essence of college, and I am confident that middle-school Jaz would be astonished.
Below is a list of goals I’ve made for my time abroad.
- Communicate in Chinese as much as possible and English as little as possible, especially outside of the classroom. If someone can speak Chinese, try speaking Chinese before speaking English.
- Take advantage of opportunities to experience the local culture (at least 2 a week but hopefully more).
- Engage with my program faculty, staff and students beyond program requirements
- Disconnect from my phone.
- Keep a journal updated daily and blog twice a week.