Overwhelming and New ——My Study Abroad Experience in Nanjing By Grace Gowen
When first arriving in China, the intensity of the being here was like nothing else that I had ever experienced. Almost everything was new to me, despite my having traveled to China on numerous occasions in the past. I had always heard that traveling to China versus living in China would be different, but I really had no idea what to expect.
After arriving, I was thankful that CIEE provided dormitory housing for the first couple days for orientation, even for the students that were staying in host families. Even though the move from the dormitories to the host families was a little bit stressful, I was glad that I had the support of the teachers and other American students. This helped me adjust to the new environment that I was in.
For the first two weeks or so, everything was overwhelming and new. The amount of homework that I had felt like a mountain of work every night and I came home exhausted and too tired to think clearly for very long, so finishing homework every night was difficult. Even going back home to my host family was a challenge at first because I was surrounded by the language and the culture and felt like I didn’t have a calm place to relax.
Gradually, I became more accustomed to my life here in China. After a while, getting up at 6:30am didn’t feel as bad anymore. In America, if I had to get up at 6:30, I would be tired for the rest of the day because I wasn’t accustomed to waking up that early. Here in China however, I feel like this is a normal part of my day, waking up as early as I do. I think this has to do with cultural influences and the people that I am surrounded by. In China, people have a custom of waking up early, and thus I’ve tried to adapt to this custom as well. I also have gotten used to speaking in Chinese. In my university in America, I hadn’t really spoken very much Chinese, even in Chinese class. With the total immersion program in Nanjing, I have no choice but to speak in Chinese, both in class and with my host family. My ayi and my main language of communication is Chinese and so most nights when I get home, she and I will talk for a few hours about our days, or we will engage in an interesting conversation about an aspect of Chinese culture, etc. The more I talk to her, the more comfortable I am with the language.