Starting My Chinese Adventure — Riley Harris

Authored by:
Yifang Zhu

大家好, I am Riley Harris, a participant in this Spring semesters Intensive Chinese Language and Culture here in Nanjing, China. I come from Denver, Colorado and I go to college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Spring 2017 student  Riley Harris 

Coming to China has been a dream of mine for the last ten years, and now that I have been here for over a month now, I can confidently say it has been everything I could have ever hoped for and more. Traveling from Colorado to Nanjing was by far the worst part of my adventures so far, and that’s only because I have never been on a plane for more than five hours, so you can imagine sitting on one for close to fifteen hours (especially when you’re sitting next to a kid who keeps putting their feet on you) is a little draining. Regardless of how tired I was when I arrived, I felt immediately welcomed as there was a CIEE Chinese roommate waiting at the airport to receive me, making the rest of my travels effortless. Upon arriving to the dorm, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of the rooms, as they are nicer than many of the college dorms I have been to in America. They also have a fantastic view of Nanjing, regardless of what side you are placed on.

Living in a suburb outside of Denver all my life made me worry I would not be able to navigate the busy city here in Nanjing, but with the orientation weekend activities, as well as the weekly Friday field trips helping you orient yourself with the city, I haven’t thought that it has been too much to handle. The program director, the staff, the teachers, and all the Chinese roommates have made me feel more than welcomed here in Nanjing, and have helped me establish a new home. They continually go out of their ways to make sure I feel comfortable, safe, and to ensure I am loving my study abroad experience. I know once my time here is over, I will have made many lifelong friends.

First family picture at NJU 北大楼(Historical North Building)   

When I originally came here, I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel living in a city of eight million plus people, as I come from a state with only five million in total. However, I have never once felt overwhelmed by the city, and I highly recommend coming to study here in Nanjing over Shanghai or Beijing. Nanjing is a glorious city. It has not forgotten its cultural and historical importance. During our Friday field trips, whether you go to the Confucius Temple, Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, or Xuanwu Lake, you will not only see a city that is experiencing vast economic growth, but also a city that is not willing to sacrifice the important pieces to provide that growth.

Fieldtrip to Dr.  Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum

I have not yet been to Beijing, but I did travel to Shanghai two weekends ago and I can confidently say I am more than happy I chose to participate in a program here rather than somewhere else. Yes, Shanghai is a beautiful, large city with tons of skyscrapers, nightclubs, and shopping malls, but I did not get the same sense of connection as I have in Nanjing. The people here are kind, and although they sometimes may stare, it’s just because you’re an interesting foreigner and more times than not, they just want to talk to you and get to know you.


The real reason I came here though was to study the Chinese language and culture. I will admit, the first two weeks were a little overwhelming, as many Chinese language students in the United States only study Chinese for about four hours a week and that’s it. Here, it is four hours of classes every day, and then studying, speaking, and practicing Chinese the rest of the day. Once you get in the groove of things though, it is fun, rewarding, and you will feel that you are learning valuable life lessons, as well as a new language every single day.

  Fieldtrip to Jiangnan Examination hall

I can’t say enough about this program, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an extremely fun, but also very rewarding study abroad experience.

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