Tamia is from Bensalem, PA and participated in the Chinese Academic Year 2018-2019 program in China.
Boy, do I have a story to tell! For the past three months, I have been searching for opportunities to use Chinese in more settings than in my school and home setting. So far, I dedicated 24 hours to volunteering at the First People’s Hospital of Changzhou. I helped people register for an appointment in the hospital, directed them to where they could pay their hospital fees, and/or assisted the occasional English-speaking foreigner in navigating the Chinese hospital system.
I continued to find opportunities in the Changzhou Children’s Hospital which is a five minute walk from where my host family and I live. The first time that I went, I performed two Chinese songs that I had learned at the New Year’s Show the hospital hosted! The second time, I was lucky enough to be put in charge of organizing the medication in the pharmacy and play with children in the rehabilitation center!
Just two days ago, my host aunt showed me around the hospital she works at in Wujin. One of the nurses allowed me to enter operating room to watch the moment that a new baby was born via C section. That same day, I watched two surgeries performed in the cardiovascular surgery department. What a blessing! Not only did I have such an amazing experience yesterday, but I was also told that I will have the opportunity to shadow a doctor in the upcoming days. I’m sure you can guess how exciting that will be for me!
I always knew that the field of medicine was interesting to me. Without much exposure to medicine besides a few prerequisite high school courses, YouTube videos, medical camps, and my experience as a somewhat frequent patient in the emergency room, I wasn’t fully sure if I wanted to pursue a career in such a competitive field. Although, medicine is an interest, world languages are my passion. In my mind, I thought, “You’re 17. You don’t have enough exposure to the field. Gain more experience in a little bit of everything and see what genuinely makes you excited to learn and continue from there.” With this my mindset, I will seek more opportunities to volunteer.
Early last December, I walked into our local elementary school, introduced myself and asked if there was an opportunity to share some information on a widely celebrated holiday in America, Christmas, as well as winter activities. I spoke on my winter experiences in Pennsylvania (northeast of the country). This was my formal way of sharing my experience within American culture as an exchange student. This was also a way for me to try to experience a little bit of teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language.
In a city like Changzhou, if you take the initiative to look for opportunities to engage in the community of your choice, you will get great results. Of course it won’t be easy. As a non-native speaker and beginner of the language your foreign country, you probably will not know many of the medical, business, or technical terms for the area of community service that you plan to participate. This takes motivation and dedication. If you are willing to commit, then the results will be as awesome as you wish for them to be! You will have discussions with your global peers on the differences between China and America and build new connections. You will have an experience of a lifetime.