Ellen Esterhay Photograph


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Goodbye, China

December 12, 2012   

Back in America! My apologies for the long absence - the last couple weeks in Beijing were very hectic. It was a flurry of studying for finals, cramming six months of my life into two puny suitcases, and eating as much Chinese food as I possibly could handle before coming home!

The wrap-up events of ACC were much more bittersweet than anyone was expecting. Students were all so focused on getting through the semester and getting back to the States, that it took awhile to realize we would miss our friends, teachers, and China.

On the last weekend before finals, we had our "China Night" event. Many students participated, with acts ranging from hilarious skits to tai chi and Chinese poetry. I learned the ENTIRE Gangnam style dance (so much harder than it looks!) and performed in a music video filmed by another Hamilton student, who is a Art major specializing in film. In my completely unbiased opinion, it was one of the best acts of the night! 

We all made through our final exams. To my surprise, my spoken exam went much more smoothly than I'd been expecting! Thinking back to some of my first oral exams in summer, my Chinese speaking has improved by leaps and bounds. My written exam might have been a bit of a let-down (safe to say it was not my best grade at ACC), but I walked out of that oral exam very proud of the progress I've made in my Chinese language skills. 

After the final written exam, we had our graduation ceremony and then "English Table." Everyone was treating the ceremony as a bit of a joke, since it was only " graduation from ACC," but then we all realized that we were actually psyched to have made it through this program. The teachers are absolutely wonderful, but the material is really tough. Everyone, students and teachers alike, cheered for every single student when they received their certificate.

At which point, the language pledge was broken! Then came one rather shocking revelation  - most of our teachers could not speak English very well, or even at all! Despite the fact that they could read and write most English words, they could not actually communicate in English. I never in a million years would have guessed that most students' Chinese was better than our teacher's English.

Saying goodbye to everyone was difficult. ACC students, for the most part, are a bit scattered, though chances are good that many of us will meet up in the future in D.C. or New York. As for our teachers and Chinese friends - we knew that there was a good chance we would never see them again.

To keep a long story short, I would not trade China for anything. It was a great experience and I already miss it in a lot of ways. But when I got home, I stepped out of my car, stood in my driveway for the first time in months and took a deep breath in. And let me tell you, pollution-free air has never smelled so wonderful.