May 17th, 2015
Local Time: 23:33pm CDT
One. More. Week.
Finally, no more finals. No more AFLAC internship job training. No more classes or homework to distract me. I can just spend the next few weeks focusing on cramming as many characters and phrases into my head as possible and talking to myself in the mirror trying to get the pronunciation just right. With just half a semester of Mandarin under my belt, I have way too much to learn in just seven short days. I can introduce myself to someone, explain where I’m from, invite them to do something, ask them what they want to drink, speak about past events, tell the date, time and hour, ask if someone is busy, ask what people they have in their family, how old they are and the like. It seems like more than I thought now that I’m writing it out, but compared to my Spanish, it’s a meager assortment of language capability.
I suppose I should rewind and give ya’ll a bit of context. I was accepted to UW’s Global Gateway program in Shanghai about two months ago. The program is fully funded by the University (thank you, btw, thank you so much!), it’s a month long, and will be my absolute first time abroad. Although the program has pretty much zero, zilch focus on Mandarin acquisition, I’m going to be spending every bit of spare time I get practicing the language with Shanghai natives – that is when I’m not exploring every inch of the city, eating all the food I’ve been told is fabulous, sitting in class for three hours a day and checking out Shanghai’s surrounding rural territories on the weekends.
I know my blond hair and blue eyes are going to peg me instantly as a foreigner, but I’m really hoping people will still be willing to try speaking Chinese with me instead of kicking to English. Furthermore, I especially hope people don’t try to screw me over at market or try to take advantage of me because I’m obviously not from China. I also hope that my limited language skills won’t inhibit me from developing profound relationships with some of the Chinese students there.
For the most part, I think I have mixed feelings regarding the fact that I’ll be accompanied by fourteen fellow badgers and a Madison professor. On the one hand, I’m glad I’ll have that support system and get to know them well. On the other hand, I’m afraid I’ll use them as a crutch and it will detract from really trying to engage with local people. I guess it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Mostly: excited. (First time abroad, whoo, in a beautiful country that is full of Chinese speakers!)
A little: nervous. (What if I totally fail with communication?)
Really: impatient. (I want to leave now!)
Kinda: bitter-sweet. (Going to miss family and friends while I’m gone.)
A month is too short. A month is too long. Gah, I haven’t even left yet. It’s going to be so WEIRD and so COOL!