Tailor Dortona: Making the Most of Your Semester Abroad

Back in Washington, DC before I left for China, I was under the misconception that three and a half months in Chengdu would be ample time to explore the city, learn enough Chinese to be considered an advanced beginner at my home university, and visit 3-4 other Chinese cities. With less than one month to go, I realize that my original assessment was utterly wrong. I entered this program with grandiose plans, but fully accomplished few of my goals. I am content with what I have accomplished during my time here thus far, but I will be spending the next few weeks in a mad rush to complete my bucket list. Instead of passing a cool area of the city while riding my bicycle and saying “I’ll come back next week to explore this area,” I should have dismounted my bike right then and there and taken the time to stop and smell the rose (or stinky tofu). A bucket list is meant to meet an individual’s unique needs and desires and ought to be tailored to these, but perhaps a look at a shortened version of my own bucket list (this does not include my academic or language goals) will assist people in creating their own.

1)     Explore every stop on the Chengdu metro à Turns out this is easier said than done. Without even trying, my friends and I have explored approximately 1/3 of the stops on Line 1 and ¼ of the Line 2 stops. But it has proven more difficult to find the time to explore the remainder of the stops.

2)     Purchase a bike and become comfortable riding around the city à I didn’t realize that I wanted to buy a bike until I had already been in China almost one month. I wish I had purchased a bike the first day I was here in Chengdu, because it facilitates exploration of the area and also cuts my commute time to the other Sichuan University campus in half! I paid a mere 180 RMB ($30) for my bike, basket, and lock and I have probably paid around 30 RMB ($5) in parking and 10 RMB ($2.50) in repairs at the bike shop on campus.

3)     Develop Chinese style à After observing the local fashion for nearly one month, I began to scour the city for articles of clothing that I thought best represented my time in Chengdu and could also fit into my wardrobe in the US. I can now confidently say that I have discovered my Chinese style and I cannot wait to try out my new look in Washington, DC.

4)     Travel to Beijing à I traveled to Beijing last month and, although it made me grateful that I chose to study in Chengdu, it was a weekend well spent. I will never forget my voyage to the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.

5)     Travel to Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Macau à After my trip to Beijing, I decided that this excursion was low on my list of priorities. I will undoubtedly return to China in the next few years, so I am not worried.

6)     Spend the day at the Global Center à The Global Center is the largest free standing building by volume in the entire world and it is located a mere 20 minutes from our dorm, so my roommate and I plan to accomplish this particular goal this weekend.  Rest assured photos from this trip will certainly be appearing in my blog next week!

The past three and a half months my bucket list existed solely in my head, but after taking the time to write it out, I realized that the creation of a plan was in order. Last week I made a promise to myself that every day until I leave the country I will either 1) try a new restaurant, 2) go on an exploratory bike ride/walk, or 3) make an active effort to interact with locals and make new Chinese friends.

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