By Katelyn Lawrence
During my time in Chengdu, I experienced a lot of culture-shock, as one would expect. I quickly realized that the best way to get through the culture shock was to embrace the culture. Simple tasks, such as ordering a pizza, became difficult and often embarrassing. It involved a lot of pointing and head nods and hoping you got the food you wanted. At first I was hesitant to eat the “mystery meats,” but once I was more comfortable with the foods I realized I was probably better off just eating instead of questioning what it was. My time in Chengdu made me grateful for toilets in public restrooms and to be living in a place where it is safe to drink tap water (staying hydrated in the heat wasn’t always easy). I also realized how lucky I was to grow up in an English-speaking country, seeing that as the common language among all of the international students. This experience has inspired me to become more fluent in another language, instead of just knowing bits and pieces of a few foreign languages.
When getting to know the students, I was surprised about how much they wanted to know about us personally (such as if we had boyfriends/girlfriends, what we do in our spare time, if we have jobs, etc.). It was also incredibly eye-opening how much the students really listened to what we were saying and inspired by it—after telling one girl that I also work a full-time job, she wanted to try to find a job, too. The conversations we had with those students were an amazing opportunity to see how our lives were so similar yet so different. We quickly learned that we had a lot of the same interests, but our daily lives were completely different. The Chinese students don’t have to work to support themselves through college, and students (even the graduate students) lived on campus. I also found it funny how interested the Chinese girls were in American boys. For me the entire experience was eye-opening, getting a better understanding of the lives of other college students from around the world.