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Gap Year Abroad

2 posts from September 2014

09/15/2014

Ni Hao! (How??)

Congratulations to all members of the CIEE Shanghai program, we've officially been here for over two weeks! 

Wow. What a way to start out the time here in Shanghai. I know, I've neglected the blog universe recently, but I'm back! 

Here's what you missed--

Last Tuesday was our first day of school... ahhhh! For a beginner 1 student such as myslef, you could literally smell the confusion. Like most days in Shanghai, it was an overcast day, perfectly mimicking the confusion and cloudiness in my brain trying to juggle characters, pin yin, english translations, correct tonal speech... and, oh yeah, I am a person, so I guess eating, showering and sleeping would be good too. 

Let's just say, 4 hour classes in Chinese everyday is not exaclty a walk in Zhong Shan Park. 

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One of my favorite parks, I often come here to study. Oh, did i mention studying yet? Ah, yes. The studying is less of a verb now, and more of a way of life. It's a religion, something that you commit every waking hour of the day to. 

No, no, I take that back. Definitely not just hours that you are awake. Thursday night I had a dream I put a third tone over an "I" instead of an "E" and the world started bursting into flames and there was lava everywhere and there was someone screaming somewhere. 

Granted, I have put just a little bit of pressure on myself... but just a little! Like I said, studying for class is a way of life. No worries! I'm not the only one...

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Pictured: Bradley, Alec, Lara, & Eddie. (Fellow temporary slaves to the art of studying the beloved Chinese Language).

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it. So many characters make much more logical sense than English it makes me wonder why in the WORLD English has to be so complicted. For example: to say the days of the week in chinese you simply put the Chinese character for "xīngxī" in front of a corresponding number of the week. So, since the number 1 is "yī", Monday would be "xīngxīyī". The number 2 is "èr" so Tuesday would be "xīngxīèr". And so on. Logical. Simple. 

I also truly believe that just in this one week of class alone, I have better been able to grasp Chinese culture in general. Through the language, I have been given what seems to be my own personal peep hole into what it truly means to be Chinese. 

Yes, it's true, Chinese is complicated. So complicated in fact, the word "complicated" does not do it justice, but oh man, it has perks. 

Brakes in studying turn into eating noodles at places where most of the gap year students cannot order yet because of the massive language barrier... or even stir the meal correctly (the waiters now know to mix it for us). Although we cannot articulate it, the owners know how much we adore this whole-in-the-wall miniscule Chinese restaurant. Practically fainting from the delicious, noodle-y explosions occuring in our mouths needs no translation. If I were to try and articulate to you what these godly bowls of wonder taste like, it would simply do the meal injsutice for I do not believe the vocabulary needed to do so exists to mortal humans. 

Other perks include incredible trips to beautiful cities such as the one I had the pleasure of visiting: Yangzhou. If you have not heard of Yangzhou, it is best known for the fact that fried rice originated there. 

Yes, I had fried rice. And yes, it was even more delicious than the noodles. (You didn't hear that from me!!) 

The groups left in the early morning on Saturday and had the experience of taking bullet trains to one of four Chinese cities. Seeing my first blue sky in two weeks was an emotional experience for me, and for my phone. I have about 30 pictures dedicated solely to the baby blue sky and one or two clouds I could see. What a treat. 

After eating about as much fried rice that could feed a small village, the small Yangzhou CIEE group of 20 made our way to two breath takingly beautiful gardens that looked a little something like this:DSCN1546

After these gardens we were able to find more fried rice as the moon started to rise in the sky.

The next morning we made our way to a little tea house with the most incredible tea I've ever tasted. I'm sure you've noticed I may exaggerate, just a little, but this tea needs no exaggeration. Here, look for yourself! IMG_1467

Even now when I look at it, a sense of euphoria pours over my body. That tea, is why I study so hard. So that I can buy every Chinese tea there is to buy, and no longer having to use Chinglish (Chinese- English).

We spent the last few hours in Yangzhou at a beautiful park full of places I just wanted to sit and think about how it is I got so lucky as to have the priviledge to visit places such as this one. 

A quick bullet train back to Shanghai, and a wonderful surprise was awaiting us. A radiant blue sky! I could have cried. More pictures of baby blue skies on my phone, and I actually felt at home. 

For the first time, I referred to Shanghai as home, and even felt a sense of comfort walking home from campus: making the familiar right turn onto the street outside of ECNU smelling something delicious I don't know the name of mixed with cigarette smoke and the sound of a Chinese man about to spit. Yep, I was home. 

After some studying I went for a walk and noticed the nighttime brought one of the most incredible things I've seen; The Shanghai Star. No, this is not an official title for it (yet) but it's going to happen. The first clear night in Shanghai and I was fortunate enough to capture the only little star gracing the China night sky.  IMG_1526

It's in the upper left hand corner... I swear. This picture of The Shanghai Star is a nice representation of my inner growth here in China. 

No, you may not be able to see it from where you are. You may not even be able to see it in the picture. But I can see it, and believe me, it's there. Today was nothing but blue skies again, so I have a feeling the star can only get brighter from here. 

To quote John Green, "I'm on a rollercoaster that only goes up..."

Until next time, lovely reader...

09/04/2014

First Week in Shanghai (Shang-HI!!!)

Hi everyone and welcome once again to my blog! 

Today is the 5th of September, marking the 5th day in Shanghai! I am beyond excited to be here and experience all this wonderful city has to offer. In 5 days alone I can confidently say that I have met so many people, experienced so many things, and seen some incredible sights, and I am having an amazing experience. 

You should know, however, that I was not always this confident about my trip here. On the 30th of August I said many goodbyes that were harder than I expected them to be. Between family, friends, and random strangers with whom the topic of "I'm going to China for a year" came up, all of them had one thing in common to say to me: "You are going to have the time of your life, I wish I had that opportunity." Honestly I knew that this was going to be an incredible experience but it made me nervous to hear people say it like that. Like if it didn't turn out that way, 'the time of my life,' that I would have wasted a year that so many others are envious that I have. It was quite a bit of pressure. 

Anxious and anticipating the worst, I boarded my 14 hour flight from the comforts of home to Shanghai, China. After a few troubling moments here and there, I was starting to feel very confident in myself. The freedom I felt from things at home was more liberating than anything I've ever felt. And for the first time in a long time I felt confident in myself and my decisions. 

After the CIEE staff picked me up practically flawlesslly, we exited the airport and the first thing I notice: the humidity. WOW it is humid here. That is definitely going to take some time to get used to. If I were to attempt to describe the humidity I would have to say it feels like you're swimming. Without the comforts of having cold water as your reward. 

In what felt like slow motion, the group moved towards the bus to make our way through the beautiful city of Shanghai. My prior expectations for the bus traveling to my new home for the next year were tears tears and more tears. Perhaps a hint of excitement. However these expectations were quickly shattered as I looked out the window and saw parks I could see myself reading in and stores i wanted to explore and buildings i wanted to know more about. I saw things I'd never seen before like that there is potted plants on the highway. THE HIGHWAY!!! So exciting for me. The world could use more foliage like that. I assumed it was the adrenaline, espceially since driving through Shanghai is a life threatening experience by itself, and that the feeling of excitement would eventually just wear off. 

Well, needless to say, I was wrong. Because here I am, 5 days into my gap year, and absolutely loving it. The other gap year students are all incredible individual people and i feel priviledged to share my year with them. Although we are a small group of 8, and it has only been 5 days, we truly have grown close, and I can't wait to see the beautiful, adventurous future that China holds for us. 

Here's a picture of us at The Bund! 

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(Not pictured: Me, Veronica, and Alexa, not a picture enthusiast (I tried))

I am so excited to be showing you, lovely reader, everything I see! 

Until next time...

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