Written by Gillian Hand (George Washington University), Student Correspondent CET Harbin Summer 2019
Ever use a fruit market as your classroom? Well, there’s a first time for everything! Signing up to participate in CET’s Harbin summer program I didn’t really know what to expect and I never thought I would be using a fruit market as a classroom. For my time in Harbin I knew I was going to have to take on a language pledge. I also knew this would be a hard but necessary task if I wanted to improve my Chinese skills. Even with just one week into the language pledge I have already noticed an improvement in my Chinese. It’s filled with moments of frustration where I just can’t seem to formulate a correct sentence. But, these moments of frustration are what makes me a better speaker.
Going into the program I thought once the language pledge starts, I won’t be able to communicate with anyone, make friends, or understand my classes. However, we all have the habit of underestimating ourselves. Here I am week one of the program, making friends, enjoying my classes, and exploring the city.
For one of our classes this week we went to a fruit market to practice using our Chinese in the deep depths of Harbin. It was a great experience. The street was lined with various carts and stores filled with fruits and vegetables galore. You had your normal fruits such as apples, pears, bananas but you also had Chinese fruits and vegetables like lychee and bok choy. At the fruit market I purchased a pound of cherries and a few bananas for approximately 2 USD (Score!). I interacted with fruit stand owners and even random citizens on the street. I realized at the fruit market that I can and will survive these next 8 weeks by only using my Chinese skills.
Even buying fruit in China, something that seems like a simple task, is vastly different. It’s very intimidating going to another country where everything is different from what you are used to. But, it’s worth it to study abroad, no matter how terrifying it may seem. In today’s world, it is important we understand different cultures and languages. By exposing yourself to different cultures you appreciate the world and diversity even more. After all, diversity is what keeps the world an interesting place.
If you are ever indecisive about studying abroad, my advice to you is just give it a chance! It’s going to be filled with bumps in the road, and some of those bumps I have yet to go over. But, just by experiencing my first week and a half in Harbin, I can say with confidence studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you should embark on. You most certainly are going to need help along the way so don’t be afraid to go to your teachers for help and don’t forget to call your friends and family back home! One phone call back home to your friends and family makes a huge impact on your mindset. It gives you strength to continue that you never thought you needed.
I’m excited to see what other adventures Harbin has in store for me within these next 8 weeks, and who knows maybe my next class will be at Harbin’s Jílè Temple (极乐寺), Sun Island (太阳岛风景区), or even its Siberian Tiger Park (哈尔滨东北虎林园)!