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06/17/2013

Learning to be Brave

In Nanjing, I learned to bravely adapt to this society and fearlessly question my thoughts.  When I first began to study Mandarin, my professor informed me that I had to be ready to embarrass myself and do things I did not think I could do. I had to be ready to change the way I thought about communicating. She was never more right than now. In Nanjing, I am forced to do honor her way of thinking.

In the beginning, I was faced with many problems. Every time I went somewhere new or not so new, I got lost. Everywhere I went, people stared like they had never seen a black person before—maybe they had not. Most times when I spoke with people, they did not completely understand me because of my bad pronunciation and grammar. Also, I could not understand them because of the Nanjing dialect. Obviously, this was really frustrating.

However, I learned to buck up pretty quickly. Now, when I get lost, I ask for directions. I’m not completely disappointed in myself either. I consider it a good way to get to know the city and meet new people. When people stare, I greet them so they know I'm not an alien. They may have plenty of questions about my “unique” features, home country, and reasons for coming to China. I do not think of it as annoying, but rewarding because I helped them learn something that they may have never learned understood had they not met me. Not many Chinese people travel or get to see people of different races often, like I do, so I understand their curiosity and appreciate it. Also, my Chinese has gotten much better with many embarrassing moments. I have learned to persevere through some of the most mentally strenuous situations in my life—and it has been fun.

Also, in explaining myself and my own society in America to others, I have learned more about myself. I have learned to think about things in a way that I never thought about before. In explaining how I could be American and African at the same time, I thought about how I come from a country of immigrants (mostly European immigrants). I forgot that there is no such thing as ancient or medieval United States. Also, I am saying things that I never thought I would say before.  When chatting with a friend, I talked about wanting to watch a certain movie. He reminded me I could just go watch online. Then, I suddenly said, “Oh yeah I forgot China was free!”  Right after saying it, I had to think about what that meant. I meant that all forms of art are free, but I realized there are laws in both China and the United States that prevent art from being free in different ways. I had never thought in this way before. This experience has challenged me to confidently contradict myself and try relentlessly.  

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