Students offer reflections about experiences in China
Posted October 15
The thriving Mandarin program at Saint Francis allows students to spend two weeks in China for a cultural and language immersion. Two students who took part this summer are sophomore Connor Doyle and junior Sophia Gustafson. Read on to find out more about their experiences.
By Connor Doyle ’15
Last summer I went to China and had a completely unexpected experience. Right after school ended it all hit me. I was going to China, after taking only one year of Chinese. To be honest, I was terrified, what was I going to do in China with an unknown family? I don't know many of the kids I'm going with, but most of all, how am I going to communicate with everyone. The journey across the Pacific was a bit rough. I was on a flight with only one other Lancer, and we left a couple hours after the rest of the group. Our redeye flight turned around over Vancouver and headed back to San Francisco due to engine problems. We boarded the second plane two days after the first group had left, and this time got there safely.
The first few days in China, a couple of things really stood out to me -- it was really hot and humid, the people talked really fast, there were a lot of people and cars, and this trip was going to be fun. My host family of five, with three energetic boys, were very welcoming, completely immersed me with Chinese culture, and made me feel at home. Every day I went to a Chinese elementary school along with Mr. Conley and the rest of the Saint Francis students. We went to classes with the Chinese kids (I was in first grade), and immersed ourselves and tried to learn as much as we could at the same time. After school I would have fun playing basketball and spending time with my host family. It wasn't all smooth sailing and there were some ups and downs in the trip. I did find it difficult communicating with my family and there were some awkward moments, but I learned from these and they helped me improve.
This trip also helped me learn about China as a country. I ate tons of foods that I never would expected to eat before, including chicken feet, pig liver, and pig kidneys. We got to tour the inside of a Chinese clothing factory and sang karaoke. The two and half weeks in Shenzhen China were going by so fast. Upon leaving I realized I had a lot more fake stuff, I was better at Chinese, and had bonded with Chinese people and fellow Lancers.
By Sophia Gustafson ’14
If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I ever imagined myself boarding a fourteen-hour plane flight headed to live with a host family in China, I would have laughed and said, “No way.” Add to that traveling there without my parents for three weeks and I would have thought you were insane.
But this past summer, that’s exactly what fifteen other Lancers and I did, embarking on a trip to Shenzhen, China to completely immerse ourselves in the language and culture. What struck me the most about China was how welcoming everyone was. Elementary school children, high school students, parents, teachers—even total strangers—were so excited to meet us and made us feel right at home. Sometime during the middle of our trip, my classmates and I visited a kindergarten school, where every class performed two dances each for us. At only five years old, these little children had spent hours learning and rehearsing dance sequences just for our arrival. We received similar enthusiasm at every school we visited; at one high school, students had to apply and participate in a debate to be selected as a tour guide for each of us Lancers.
Spending three weeks in Shenzhen also challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and not be afraid to take risks. My spoken Chinese is nowhere near as good as anybody’s in China, but not once did anyone ever make me feel embarrassed for trying. All of the people I conversed with in Chinese encouraged and congratulated me for saying even the simplest phrases, and because of that, I felt comfortable attempting to say longer, more complex sentences.
Even though China is half a globe away, I learned that teenagers in America and China really aren’t so different—Chinese high schoolers fall asleep in class, text on their iPhones, and even read American literature like the Scarlet Letter for English class like we do. As a student, experiencing life in China truly emphasized the importance of learning to appreciate and embrace other cultures rather than shy away from them.