Finding Independence Abroad
What I enjoyed most about my study abroad experience was the amount of independence I was able to have and how everywhere I went I was able to practice my Chinese language skills. In China, with a 16 hour plane ride between me and my parents, I was able to feel true independence. If I had a problem, all my parents could really do was offer support, I was the one that would actually have to act on the problem. The ability to practice my language skills everywhere I went was also something I really enjoyed, as back home the only time I can really practice is in the classroom or with my few Chinese friends. In China, every street sign, restaurant menu, food label, taxi ride, etc. gave me the opportunity to practice my speaking and reading ability. I also had a native Chinese roommate, which allowed me to practice my speaking even within my dorm room. She was able to correct my Chinese, and at times I could correct her English, and we could teach each other fun words in our native language and discuss the cultural differences between our countries.
My proudest accomplishment was during a mid-term oral exam for my Chinese class. It can be hard to measure your own progress with language skills, especially if it is a gradually improvement over time. Mid-program, I was actually feeling pretty bad about my Chinese speaking skills. I felt like other students had a much easier time speaking and understanding what the teacher said, while I struggled to make a sentence and had to have the teacher repeat some sentences. After I finished speaking in my oral exam, it was my teacher’s turn to make comments about my performance. She told me that she had seen a lot of improvement in my skills from when I first started the class. Her saying these things made me very proud and gave me evidence that my Chinese language skills were improving over the course of the program. After this mid-term oral exam, I had more speaking confidence and took every opportunity I could to speak during class or to other native speakers outside of the classroom. Improving my language skills was my biggest goal going into this program, so knowing my skills actually improved was my proudest accomplishment while abroad.
I plan to continue to study Chinese in college and hopefully pass the HSK Level 6 before I graduate. I hope that in my remaining summer breaks, I can return to China and hopefully get an internship in one of the big cities. I really loved the lifestyle and community in China, and while this is thinking far in the future, I might like to actually live in China for a while. Wherever I end up, I just hope that I will be able to utilize my Chinese language skills. Whether this is getting a job in which I can speak Chinese, living and working in China, or just keeping in contact with my Chinese friends, I am going to make sure that I continue speaking Chinese for the rest of my life.