This past Wednesday I met up with one of my friends to catch up with her. She had just arrived back from a two week trip to China, so of course she had plenty of stories to share.
This trip was through some program for high school students (I can’t remember the name specifically) in order to let them experience Chinese language and culture. My friend, who’s going to be a high school senior this coming fall, found out she was going this spring. Her sister, who happened to be my roommate, told me about it, and I offered to help her out with the very basics of the language before she left, since I’d taken several years of Mandarin classes.
We met several times, and I gave her some online resources and some of my study materials in order to help her understand the basics. I figured that understanding pinyin and the differences between the tones, as well as some simple vocabulary, would be a huge help once she got over there and was immersed.
Even though we only met a couple of times, she said I helped a lot, which made me feel happy/useful. She even brought me back a gift: a beautiful hand-painted scroll that she picked up at a Chinese market.
One interesting thing she mentioned was that some of the natives she encountered, even total strangers, would take pictures of her and her fellow tripmates. Some would be polite and actually ask to take a picture, while others would just blatantly stick a phone in her face and snap a pic or two. I guess being non-Asian turns you into a sort of celebrity.
Overall, she had a great time and wants to go back next year, if possible. For me, listening to her talk about her trip made me think about next year, when I plan to study abroad in Korea. That trip would be six weeks, which is 3 times as long as her trip was, and I’m a tad nervous about getting homesick or not liking the food selection (I’m pretty picky). But I’m hoping that, just like my friend, I’ll have amazing experiences and make great friends.
More than anything, it made me more determined to study Korean diligently. I want to be as capable as possible by the time I head over there in 11 months.