I am deeply grateful for this summer’s experience in Beijing. It was my first trip to mainland China, and I am so glad to have had two full months of Chinese learning at China’s best university. I learned to think creatively, especially in situations where the language barrier became a serious inconvenience. Once I entered a store where there was not a word of English anywhere, and despite my limited Chinese, I used what basic vocabulary I knew to find help in getting what I needed. Body language, careful observance, and preparation are so helpful when getting around local places. Being fully immersed in this very Chinese city also helped me understand the importance of practicing speaking a new language. Hearing and speaking Mandarin daily was one of the most significant parts of the Chinese-learning experience. Right now, I am making it a goal to regularly watch, or listen to Chinese television and music to help keep the sound of Mandarin in my head. The friends I made in Beijing also encouraged me to find other Mandarin-speaking people at my home to practice speaking Chinese with.
Journaling throughout this program has also helped me to record the process of my adjustment to life in Beijing. Learning to be flexible and alert was necessary to interacting with a different set of people, but I found that patience and kindness were equally valuable. When I didn’t have the Chinese words to express myself, body language and attitude were more useful than I expected. Losing my way in Wudaokou led to conversation with locals that consisted of a lot of laughing and nodding.
The SLA Grant experience has encouraged me to continue looking for ways to make unique experiences more meaningful. During our various outings, I took notes in my journal for our blog posts. A little while passed, and I began writing journals for the sake of preserving and re-living my favorite China experiences. This summer was the first time I felt that I had truly gotten to know Chinese language, and my hope is to build on my study abroad experience by reading more on China. At Peking University, I learned the Chinese way of learning, and these are methods that I will apply to the coming years at Notre Dame.