And so it Begins (Megan in China)

Hello world!

I’m Megan, a British-American university student with a love for languages and a chronic case of wanderlust, and I created this blog mainly to document my adventures in China over the next year. I will be participating in an internship in Guangzhou for 10 weeks this summer before studying abroad at a Chinese university in Beijing from August until May 2016. That’s about as far into the future as my travel plans currently go, but I know without a doubt that I’ll find myself drawn back to China again at some point in the not-so-far-off future, so I hope to keep this blog up and running to share those experiences too!

But enough about what I’m doing in China: why exactly, you may ask, did I decide to hop on a plane and move to an unfamiliar country on the other side of the planet in the first place? Why am I so interested in China of all places and Chinese of all languages? Admittedly, I can understand that China isn’t always the most accessible or appealing choice of study abroad destination for a lot of students my age. A whole year of smog-congested cities, overcrowded public transportation, unidentifiable food, and blocked internet access? Permanently standing out as an obvious foreigner no matter where I go? Trying to function in daily life using only Mandarin Chinese?  While these are certainly challenges that I will struggle with throughout my stay, it’s the differences like these that are the most intriguing to me and that make living in China an experience unlike any other.

My personal journey with Chinese started when I lived in Shanghai for six weeks from June to August 2013 with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, a scholarship for U.S. high school students to participate in intensive linguistic and cultural immersion in countries where critical-needs languages are spoken. I was 17 when I had my NSLI-Y experience in the summer between my last year of high school and my first year of college, which was my first ever exposure to studying Chinese or traveling to China. I went not knowing what to expect, nervous but excited to experience a country so different from the Western ones I am accustomed to, and I came back captivated by the beautiful, fascinating, confusing, and thrillingly unfamiliar culture I discovered in China. I knew that learning Chinese was something I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue further, so when I started my first semester of university I enrolled in a Chinese 101 class and never looked back.

Now, six semesters of Chinese language classes later, I find myself coming back to China again, this time for a much longer stay so I can hopefully raise my Chinese proficiency to a somewhat decent level that will allow me to say “Yes, I speak Chinese” and actually mean it. My number one goal for this year is to learn the language, so I can already tell that I’m going to be spending a lot of time drilling vocab flash cards, memorizing thousands of new characters by rewriting them over and over in my notebooks, and pestering the people around me by constantly wanting to chat with them in Mandarin for conversation practice. I firmly believe that the only way to truly learn Chinese (or any language for that matter) is through regular practice and full immersion, which is why I’m excited to place myself in an environment where I have no choice but to express myself in only Mandarin and not English. My second main goal is to experience Chinese culture to the fullest extent possible. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to take a year away from my studies in the U.S. and spend all my time taking only language classes and classes on Chinese history, society, politics, and culture, so I want to make the most of it and fully dedicate myself to learning as much as I can about China and experiencing it for myself.

I think that just about sums up who I am and what brings me to China, so I’m going to sign off here for now until I can start posting more after I am settled in to my new host city. Sorry for the shameless blog-promotion plug (you knew it was coming!), but I’m documenting my adventures here so I can share them with you all – my family, friends, and readers – so please feel free to follow me at mychinachronicles.wordpress.com to stay posted on what I’m up to in China!

Until next time,

Megan (赵亦美)

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