Where did the past eight weeks go? In about a week I’ll be sitting on an airplane, looking out the window, excited to go home, but at the same time thinking: where did all the time go? It feels like just yesterday I was boarding a plane with the destination of Harbin, China. I was worried beyond belief and I had no idea what these next nine weeks had in store for me.
I remember my first day of classes here vividly. The first class I had was my one on one tutorial on Chinese Korean Relations. All my classes have been taught completely in Chinese. I thought to myself as I walked into that classroom, there was no way I was going to be able to understand my teacher. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to follow the material at all.
But today, I just finished my final paper for that class. 2,500 characters on North Korea’s nuclear program, certainly not an easy topic to study. Especially in another language. I’m now preparing for my final presentation and honestly, I’m not too worried about it. Over these past weeks, my Chinese skills have substantially improved, and I now have confidence in my language abilities. If you want to study another language and you want to be good at it, full immersion is the solution.
There is only so much sitting in a classroom or a computer software can teach you about a language. With full immersion not only do you use the language every day, you live the culture. If you’re learning a language but haven’t studied and lived the culture of that language, then you haven’t mastered it. Also, no matter how hard you try you can never fully master another language. There will always be words you don’t know, there are still hundreds of English words which I don’t know the meaning of. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the drive to learn them.
My time here in Harbin has been filled with great experiences, friendships, and memories. I’ve gotten compete in a city wide scavenger hunt, went curling, took a trip to Feng Huang Mountain（凤凰山）,visited Harbin’s Siberian Tiger Park, went to a Chinese newspaper company, and so much more.
Living in another country for two months has taught me a lot of lessons. The first one is, to just take the leap, try new things and go to new places. One thing I knew I wanted to see coming to Harbin was their Siberian Tiger Park. I started to think I have too much homework to go, but then I realized when am I ever going to be back in Harbin? I ended up forcing myself to go and had a great time. Also, I ended up finishing my work with plenty of time to spare. Life is far too short to make up excuses all the time, lost time is never found again.
The second lesson I learned is that it’s okay to be frustrated. Throughout my time in China, there have been multiple instances I have felt frustrated, especially because I have taken on a language pledge. There are times that I have no idea what someone is saying to me or times where I can’t effectively communicate what I want to say. But looking back on the progress my Mandarin skills have made these past eight weeks, it has been worth every ounce of frustration. If you never put yourself in uncomfortable situations you simply cannot grow as a person.
Traveling to different parts of the world is an eye-opening experience and I know I’ll remember my time in Harbin for the rest of my life. It’s been a fun and meaningful journey, and I’m excited to see how my Chinese skills will improve from here on. Time flies when you’re having fun, but time also flies, whether you’re wasting it or not.