A Trip Half Way Around the World: Completion

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

This summer I traveled 7,000 miles from home to participate in OSU’s study abroad program based in Suzhou, China. For 8 weeks I took part in an intensive study of the Chinese language, met local Chinese persons and discovered Chinese culture first hand.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I am a natural worrier. I worry about all types of things; from people to plans. You name it, I have probably worried about it. There were many fears that I had when it came to prepare to travel abroad to China. I was so over prepared and over packed that when I finally got on the last plane before landing in Shanghai I was mentally and physically exhausted. But there was still an underlying worry about how I would react to living on my own, 7,000 miles away from my support system. I was also insanely curious about how I would adapt to the daily life of China. Many people I had talked to told me about how different Chinese life is compared to how we live in America. After visiting I can attest to this with much experience

Surprisingly I had no trouble adjusting to living in China. It was easier than transitioning back to living in America. I quickly found that I had nothing to worry about, almost all of my worries were reduced to nothing as I started my studies in China. Thanks to a previous intensive study I found the class work manageable and even light at times. My depression was gone, I didn’t have my usual problems sleeping at night, I was able to have a diligent and efficient study time everyday and as a person I grew tremendously. Life is China was laidback and convenient, our language partners were training to be Chinese teachers themselves which made it easier for us to lean on them for help. I personally became close friends with both of my language partners and still to this day video chat and message with them. This trip has given me new friends, both in America and in China, renewed my drive to do well in school, enforced the goal of living in China and helped me focus in on the part of business I would like to work in.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

               One of the most impactful parts of the trip were the times that you would stop, look around you and realize that people live their whole lives surrounded by the beauty of China. One of the most beautiful sunsets I saw in my life was laundry day for a woman washing her clothes in the lake. Every day we were greeted with more examples of the appeal of China and was astonished by the number of locals that passed by without a care. One of the more rememberable experiences was when some classmates and I were walking around the ruins of the wall around the old part of Suzhou. We were at the top of Shumen gate surrounded by over 600 years of history. But the locals only wanted to look at us and take pictures of us. It was mind blowing that they could not see the beauty of the world around them and would rather stare at us. Being there made me want to live in China, no matter what I was doing there.

The first time I bonded with my language partner I was in an almost delirious state of mind. I had been in the library café for 6 hours that night, we were trying to get through all of the homework before heading to dinner. Admittingly I am not the best at listening comprehension and so tensions were high between my language partner and me. Both of us were frustrated with the other and at one point I remember being close to tears. But as the hours dragged on I started to realize that I could understand bits and pieces of her speech and therefore start to understand her, and the other language partners that would come to ask if we wanted to go eat or go have fun. I started using English less and less to describe what I wanted to say and by the tail end of it all leaned over to my classmate to complain about how tired I was in Chinese. English felt foreign to use, Chinese coming most naturally at the time. When we finally wrapped up and went to have food, even though I felt so odd I was able to hold a decent conversation all in Chinese where we explored the difference in customs between us and our language partners. To this day I am thankful for that day that jumpstarted my comprehension of my language partners Chinese and our friendship.

I have been completely and utterly lost on the idea of where I want to head with my career. I have explored a few areas within my major, but on a whole I didn’t know where to start. So, when we were tasked with a research project with individualized topics, I was a little lost on where to start. I started off really broad, but as I continued to narrow down the questions to ask people I realized that all of my questions were business related. As the project continued to change I realized the direction I was headed: China’s E-Commerce. I had had a small amount of exposure to this topic before but conducting research in it was something I had never done before. However, by the end of the summer I gave a 30-minute presentation on my finding of the subject and answered questions from my classmates, all in Chinese. This has given me an understanding of where I want to go with my career as an International Business student and has opened me up to the pathway of research and possibly graduate school.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I like to think that this trip was 6 years in the making; from the first day of Freshman year of High School to the day that I landed in China. The Chinese language and culture have become such a significant part of who I am and helped broaden my views on the world around us. In a way this trip marks an end to something that has been a big part of my life, but it also marks the beginning to the next stage. I have clear goals for what lays ahead of me, a renewed vigor to achieve them and a sense of confidence in my abilities to accomplish what I have put my mind to. For the first time in a long time I feel certain of who I am and who I want to be, and I know I won’t stop until I can make my dreams a reality.

Caught in a typhoon

Finally completing the route to 胥门(xumen)

One thought on “A Trip Half Way Around the World: Completion

  1. Madeline I enjoyed reading your reflection on your experiences in Suzhou, China. It was heartwarming to read that although your initial encounter with your language partner was arduous and frustrating, you were able to develop a very close relationship and overcome the misunderstandings. I imagine that many of the people who wanted to take photos of you had not seen many foreigners previously and knew that the ruins would still be there (they might not have had another opportunity to see you:). It’s amazing that as a result of your study abroad program in Suzhou you feel more certain of who you want to be and committed to finding your way back to China to work at some point.

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