By Grace Blackley
WOW! China was an experience I will never forget! When people ask me “How was China?” I respond with amazing, incredible or gorgeous, but I’m happy to be writing this post to really explain why. Before going to China I was expecting it to be adventurous, but I did not expect it to influence me to learn about other languages and religions. Going through the city required a lot of pointing at Chinese translations of the “Hongwa Bingua” (Hongwa Hotel) and saying shei shei (thank you), and that was the extent of actual Chinese communication. Trying to get a cab that wouldn’t drive away was a struggle. The trick was to find younger Chinese people to help translate our English for ordering food or getting a cab. Excursions on the weekends introduced Buddhist temples and the meaning behind the color red and prayer beads. Thank you to two amazing people in our group, Amrita and Samyak; I asked them lots of questions about the religion that I wouldn’t think to ask on just any day.
At our opening ceremony for the Sichuan University Immersion Program, a professor said that the Chinese students could speak English and he had really admired them for taking the time to learn English, but he was saddened he had not known Chinese. He then said after teaching for so long in China that he had learned Chinese to communicate better with his students. Fast forward a couple days to me sitting in a Spanish class (yeah, I sat in a Spanish class), and I got yelled at for speaking English! However, I got to know the assistant professor when
I told I wanted to learn another language and she really encouraged me and gave me a website to look at.
China taught me that the world is SO much bigger than we think it is and helped me imagine all the languages, religions and cultures that exist. I ended up buying a world religions book to learn more about Buddhism, but also learn about them all! The book even includes indigenous religions. I believe with my China experience I am more understanding of international students and our world as a whole. It is so important to leave the United States and see what’s out there; we are so privileged to know a language that everyone else is required to learn as a second language.