As I entered my last two weeks of NDIB, I buckled down and made the most of every moment in class. Week seven was very challenging, not only due to the material (we were learning how to discuss complex economic and political topics that I find difficult to discuss in English, much less Chinese!) but also because the hope of seeing our families was becoming closer and closer. China and my hometown of Chicago are 13 hours apart, and finding a time to talk to my friends and family was difficult. As much as I love China, I also missed my loved ones immensely.
Week seven, on Friday, I hosted and performed in Notre Dame’s China Night. In addition to singing a song with my classmates, I created a rap about my weeks here in China studying and experiencing the culture with my friends, making sure to thank my teachers who have worked so hard every day preparing the next day’s class. They have so much patience with us, which really shows as they answer our 100th question of the day. I also performed with my classmates in a skit parodying a game show in which I asked the contestants who were vying for my heart Chinese cultural questions in order to see if we were a good match or not (none of us were a good match, and I ended up choosing myself in the end). The whole night was tons of fun, and this wouldn’t be a Chinese program without a Chinese talent show!
On Saturday, I headed to the Lama Temple, a nearby hutong filled with restaurants, shops, and small cafes, and the Temple of Confucius. Although every temple is different, they are all treated with the same high level of respect and care from every visitor. For dinner, I met up with my Chinese teacher from last semester at Notre Dame, and it was so nice to see her in her hometown. She’s one of my favorite people ever, and for her to comment on the large progress in my Chinese proficiency meant a lot to me, especially as I was able to carry on a fluent conversation with her all night. On Sunday, I went to mass and bargained at the Silk Market, which was fun to use my Chinese to make up elaborate stories for why I absolutely needed silly items, but was unable to pay the ridiculously high asking price.
During week eight, despite becoming sick in the beginning of the week (no matter how careful you are, the water and food in China will still make you sick sometime!), I still managed to make it to the Temple of Heaven, the Old Summer Palace (which was filled with ruins of the original Summer Palace that was destroyed by the French and English), a few neighborhoods, the Pearl Market, and the Silk Market (Couldn’t forget those last minute souvenirs!). After giving my final oral presentation and finishing my last written final, I was sad to see the program ending. On the first day, I had given a speech to a few directors of Peking University during the welcome banquet, and now on the last day I was giving a closing speech to the same directors. My progress was evident in the sophistication of my second speech compared to my first speech, and I’m so proud of the progress that I’ve made with the help of my awesome teachers.
I’m so thankful that Notre Dame and the SLA Grant gave me the opportunity to study in the native country of my favorite language, and I can’t believe that it’s finally time to return to America. I’m so happy for all of the cultural and educational experiences that I have been afforded, and I hope to return to China in the future to continue my educational pursuits. I can’t wait to see how much more my Chinese can improve!