I am not “a group of friends” person, which discouraged me from studying abroad in the beginning. But I soon realized the importance of learning a 3rd language in order to build a satisfying and rewarding career in the long run. So, I decided to challenge myself and go for it. I chose China as my study-abroad destination, where the spoken language is neither my first nor my second language, a place where everyone was a stranger to me. During this 3-month semester abroad in China, I felt the communication barrier, homesickness, and overload of classwork. Sometimes I let this depression get on top of me and push me off course. However, the most fortunate thing is that CIEE was able to share these difficult moments with me. My first impression about Nanjing was that it had a convenient public transportation system, nice people, cheap delicious cuisines, and high-street security. I was quickly welcomed and treated as a family member by CIEE staff and Chinese local students.
I believe that, for most of the students living in a foreign country, the hardest part of life abroad is adjusting to the unfamiliar ground, and becoming a part of the local culture. CIEE understood our difficulties, and helped us get through these moments to be more accustomed to the local lifestyle. They set up everything prior to our arrival. I could say that the first week with CIEE was a major first step in helping me leave my comfort zone. They organized on-site orientation in order to teach us to be safe in China. Following that, they introduced us to Chinese local students, who were also our roommates and tutors. These locals not only played tremendous roles in my Chinese studies, but also in a daily life while abroad. I felt that it was scary to speak the local language while abroad since I was a stranger. However, having those Chinese friends around, I learned to be more patient and confident when practicing my Chinese. I also felt more respectful and humbled to understand the local culture. Every time I wanted to try new cuisine at a local restaurants, go shopping, or go anywhere for entertainment, the only answer I got from my Chinese friends is, “我陪你走! (I will go with you!). They do not hesitate to try my favorite food, and spend time with me. Most importantly, they were always there for me when I faced problems.
Thanks again CIEE, for connecting me with new friends, new lifelong friends!
Besides my Chinese friends, I could not disregard the CIEE staff as they were the best part of CIEE. Although, we had a big difference in age, I never felt misunderstood in our communication. They were always willing to stay young, active, and socialize with us. Since the CIEE offices and activity rooms are located on the same floor as the student’s dorm rooms, it was convenient to drop by their office to have a cup of tea, a little chat, or just ask for some advice about any problems we were facing with studies and life. Even though I live with my homestay, and usually do not have time to drop by their office, CIEE staff members would come down to my class to say hi, and check in with me. Other than that, they were available 24/7 on phone, as I could call them anytime I wanted. These things made me feel safe, and I felt my voice was always heard.
What made CIEE different from other organizations was that they stressed importance in helping us enrich our knowledge and experiences while abroad. Some of the ways they do this is by organizing field trips around the cities with local Chinese students every Friday and a long excursion trip to the west of China. I was also offered different elective classes including Tai chi, calligraphy, as well as the opportunity to contribute my service to the community through volunteering teaching at a local elementary school. In this semester long journey, not only did I learn a lot about China’s cultural traditions and society through classes and trips, but also cultivated practical experiences in the field of teamwork. I had to work with others in most activities, so I had to practice good attitude and behavior towards my peers and Chinese friends. I did this by looking after them and I was also always willing to help my teammates. I believe that, I ended this abroad journey better off than when I started it. It was all about cultivating richer knowledge and experiences through exploring the landscape, art, culture, and relationships.
Thanks CIEE for sharing ups and downs, despair and repair, smiles and frowns, moments that make everything to this valuable and memorable study abroad journey worthwhile. Showing me the value of growing independently, confidently, appreciating cultural differences, and making me feel at home. I look forward to having my next study abroad trip in other countries shared with you, CIEE. All I want to do and always love to do is #Throwing❤toCIEE