David is from Las Cruces, NM and participated in the 2017 China summer program.
When I first arrived at my host family’s apartment, I was tired and jetlagged but also extremely excited to see my home for the next six weeks. From the nineteenth floor, I could see all around the city of Zhuhai; with parks, shops, highways, and high-rise buildings stretching as far as the eye could see. This vista was the first of many new perspectives which I discovered while studying Mandarin in China. Participating in the NSLI-Y summer program was an incredibly transformative experience; through this time I developed a unique insight into the daily life, culture, and language of China.
Initially, I did not know what to expect when meeting my host family for the first time. I did not have very much experience studying Chinese. I wondered whether the language barrier would prevent me from ever truly connecting across cultures. However, over the next six weeks, we bonded exceptionally well. I cherish the countless memories of food, fun, and activities which we experienced together.
At first, the culture shock was somewhat overwhelming – I was thousands of miles away from friends and family, and I had to rely solely on my limited Mandarin ability. My host family was constantly helpful; they taught me everything from how to use the bus system (the stops were only listed in Chinese) to writing the correct stroke order of characters which we studied in class.
They included me in a wide range of experiences: my Chinese host mom shared her favorite television shows, my host dad took me shopping in outdoor fruit and vegetable markets. I also really enjoyed going out with my host brother and his friends: we played basketball, went to the movie theater to watch Chinese films, and enjoyed drinking bubble tea from tea shops like Comebuy. My host family also introduced me to a wide variety of delicious Chinese cuisine; I discovered new favorite dishes like chicken feet, Cantonese snails in black bean sauce, and barbequed octopus.
My trip to Zhuhai also transformed my perspective on future academic and career pursuits. On a weekend trip to Guangzhou, we visited the United States Consulate. For me, it was inspiring to see how I could incorporate Chinese into a future career; the experience I had in China has inspired me to pursue a career in foreign service. My language ability increased greatly over the summer. During the first week, I relied heavily on translation apps to help communicate with my host family, but by the end of the summer, I no longer needed to use them. While in Zhuhai, it was incredible to be immersed in the wealth of China’s culture. It was significant to forge meaningful friendships with my classmates and host family. Unequivocally, it was a wonderful and monumental experience.