Robin visited China. These are her thoughts.
The LC Is The Place To Be: Before entering to Hamilton College I already placed learning Mandarin as one of my top academic goals. Hamilton’s Beijing study abroad program has been nationally recognized as THE standard for Mandarin language acquisition. When I first began classes the rigor and sheer amount of course work convinced me that Hamilton’s reputation was hard earned. To my relief the program was not without resources. I spent most of my time studying in the Language Center. At my lowest point (or perhaps my highest, in terms of language level) I actually slept in the Language Center to wake up to another round of studying. If college became my home away from home, then the Language Center was definitely my bedroom. During my second year I was hired as a student assistant. I like to think it was because I was very familiar with the language programs, but it is more likely my boss felt that as long as I was sleeping there I might as well work for them too.
Prior to my departure from the US, the entire group of students traveling to China was treated to warnings and cautionary tales to prepare us for disease, harassment and culture-shock. As such, it was surprising to me how comfortable I felt. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt like I had “returned home”, or that I “truly belonged”, no, there were daily, minute subtleties to remind me of my temporary status.
My return to the US was a bit of a disappointment in terms of my language skills. I had imagined coming back completely fluent - yet as I struggled with classwork and thesis responsibilities I realized how terribly underdeveloped my Chinese was compared to my goals before I had left. I knew I had worked hard in China, but I was frustrated with how much more improvement I had yet to accomplish. It was definitely a boon to work in the language center because I had direct access to many resources that helped me maintain a degree of proficiency.
Working with language acquisition programs in the Language Center not only improved my language skills, but I have also learned so much about using computers, especially Macs. I can now use different applications such as iMovie, Garageband, and Quicktime.
Chinese classes were always the most torturous of my classes, and yet also the highlight of my day. I think my classmates and I really united in our suffering. We also benefited from the amazing one-on-one attention from our overworked professors. Even though my first and second year professors left after teaching for only one year, I still keep in touch with them. Hardworking, dedicated, talented professors are an integral part of Chinese Language courses at Hamilton. I don’t think I could ever thank my professors enough for everything they have given me. I’m grateful not only for their wonderful teaching skills, but also for their friendship.
I was thoroughly enraptured with every aspect of life in China: music, food, people, crazy infomercials, traffic, pollution, food, inexpensive everything, endless construction, haggling, morning exercises, obsession with white skin, mahjong parlors, and of course the food. I would love to return to visit my teachers and to see how the city has changed. In the 6 months that I was there I saw the entire construction process of an office building. City streets were narrowed to accommodate anticipated traffic for the 2008 summer Olympics. (I was there in 2006, when the stadium had yet to be constructed, but I have no doubt it will be ready in 2 years.)
In the US we have different bins for containers, paper, cans, etc. There is no such concept of garbage sorting in China. Instead containers are continuously cleaned and reused. For example, yogurt served in food courts come in a small glass bottle. The price of the bottle is factored into the price of the yogurt so the deposit is refunded when the bottle is returned. In China (from what I saw) everything is reused, often in very creative ways. (insert subway picture)
Why don’t you speak Chinese?