We are already a few weeks into our study abroad excursion and there is still so much to see! This past week has been filled with a myriad of adventures ranging from visits to the local tea houses to seeing adorable pandas at the Panda Research Center. In between classes, some of us even manage to ride the subway a few stops to grab a quick lunch at new places. We have already discovered quite a few noodle shops, hotpot shops and even a Subway which will be an inexpensive place to eat if we ever start missing familiar food. Luckily all of us enjoy trying new food so none of us have gotten very tired of the cuisine here.
Speaking of new things, one new aspect of studying in a different country that I have noticed is how easy it can be to shut out new cultures. I can see how frustrated and nervous someone can get when placed in a new environment surrounded by people who do not read or speak your language. I have even seen it firsthand, especially at food shops where it can be difficult for someone who wants a specific item to communicate with a server who has no idea what they are talking about. Both parties can get confused, but luckily, every time this has happened, everyone is willing to cooperate and learn. Every time we go out, our group tries to learn something new from the menu so that we can expand our list of choices. A few days ago we discovered a delicious dish from northern China that consists of peppers, eggplant and potatoes. It’s a simple dish but delicious nonetheless, and we never would have discovered it had we not asked the locals. Personally, I love learning about new cultures and I enjoy using the Chinese I know to learn more about the people of Chengdu and what they enjoy eating and doing. I want to make the most out of my experience here, and I believe that learning from the locals, even when it may seem impossible, is a great start.
When I first got here, the stares at my blonde hair were a little strange to me, but now I smile and sometimes even say hello to those staring because I can only imagine what it must be like to see someone with different colored hair if they have never seen it before. I have come to realize that they are just as curious about me as I am of them, and this only makes my experience more interesting. Luckily the other campus hosts an event every Friday called English Corner where both native English and Chinese speakers get together to practice the languages and get to know about other countries. When I went, I met a few children who dream of going to the United States to study when they are older, and I enjoyed answering the questions they had. I believe that its experiences like these that enable people to drop their walls and fully embrace another culture. In my opinion, it’s important to be open-minded about other cultures because not only is it interesting, but it can lead to developing relationships for the future.