Ivan Ilic: One of the Best Decisions of My Life

24 days into my study abroad experience and I already have gained so much insight into the Chinese culture. Through the help of the program as well as my friends, I have been introduced to countless native Chinese people. Even though the conversations might be short, they have had a huge impact on how I perceive the Chinese culture. Since the first day I landed in China I have paid particular attention to how many stares I get on a daily basis. But after meeting so many Chinese people I have begun to understand the stares as more of fascination rather than disgust. Everyone I have talked to has been so interested in my story. Where am I from? What do I do? Why am I in China? How do I feel about Chengdu? These are only a handful of the questions that I get asked on a nightly basis when my friends and I take to the mystifying Chinese nightlife. I will explore the Chengdu nightlife in greater detail in my next blog post.

Although I am not actively enrolled into the Beginning Mandarin course, almost everyone else in the program is. I have slowly but surely began to pick up more and more of this fascinating language through the help of my peers in the g-MEO program. Instead of just handing the store clerk a 20 or 50 RMB bill, I am now able to understand how much a beverage costs when I go up to pay for it. I am also able to order more than just one dish when I go out for lunch and dinner. In the first week, the only way I would be able to order something was by pointing to a picture of the particular dish on the wall. As the days go on, I try harder each day to incorporate Mandarin into my everyday life here in Chengdu. One of my goals is to be able to hold a short conversation with a native speaker by the time I have to go back to the United States.

It is mind boggling to think that 24 days have already passed. We are more than halfway through our first semester and, when I process that we don’t have that much time left here, it is frightening. Never in my life would I have thought I would have made it to China at the age of 21. It has always been a life goal of mine to visit each continent but I would have never thought I would have made it here at such a young age. I am thankful for experiencing this at such a young age, because I know for a fact that I will be back in China in my future endeavors. The image I had of China is most certainly different from what China actually is. The culture, the people, the food, the music, the layout, everything is truly beautiful in its own way and I am thankful for being able to experience it first hand.

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