Now that finals over and I am done with my language pledge I do not only feel relieved but proud. I came to China with many things on my bucket list and a few goals, one of them being to learn as much Chinese as possible in three months. Looking back (only twelve weeks ago?!), when I got off the plane at the Beijing airport I could not string three Chinese words together, now I can say over a thousand words in more or less grammatically correct sentences.
I owe a great deal of my progress in Chinese this semester to the Chinese Studies Institute and its teachers. All of them literally work night and day to prepare lessons, homework, activities and so on, not to mention the time spent teaching in the classroom. Although the Immersion program was tough and tedious at times, it truly was a rewarding experience and I cannot say enough about the progress that everyone in the Immersion program has made since the first day.
Currently, I am in the city of Xi’An, on the end-of-semester two week study trip around China. Even though I have only been in Xi’An two days, I already love it almost as much as Beijing. Yesterday I visited the famous Terracotta Warriors which were just as cool as they sounded in all the books I’ve read about them. Then we visited Xi’An’s ancient city wall which is China’s most complete, surviving city wall, about fourteen kilometers in length, where my friend and I rented a tandem bike and rode the entire length.
Today we will take a plane to the northern city of Xi’ning from which we will take a twenty hour train ride to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. It is great to see different parts of China and Chinese people, especially after being in Beijing for most of the last three months, and it is amazing how different China’s regions, and even neighboring cities, are. Although my foreigner status is getting a lot more stares from the locals the farther I get from Beijing, the people are all the more friendly and welcoming. As my time in China winds down, I am so happy just to be spending it with good friends while traveling, eating, and sightseeing.