In less than two weeks, I will be leaving for China and staying there for 6 months. I have never been to China, but I have been learning Mandarin on my own for over a year on and off. I don’t remember exactly how I got into studying Mandarin or became so interested in China. I just remember trying to learn French for a few months before I became busy with something else and eventually forgot about it. I wanted to start on another language, and I think I chose Chinese for the challenging aspect as well as it’s usefulness. It’s spoken by the most amount of people in the world and China is a big player in the world.
Since I started my Mandarin learning journey, I’ve read many articles, a few books, and talked to many people from China, about China. The country fascinates me. It’s long history, to the cultural revolution of Mao Zedong, to the economic boom of the largest population in the world. It’s not just history, it’s the transformation of the people. I have heard so much about China, but still don’t feel even close to understanding it.
I usually read into some history about a country before I travel to it. China is different. I don’t know why, but I have done more research about this place than any other so far. I’m far from an expert on Chinese history, but i’m drawn to understanding it’s people, why things are the way they are, and where things are headed.
After graduating college in December, I had no idea what my plan was. I just got a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and had many opportunities to pursue a job in engineering. I didn’t get a job right away because I had to deal with a medical problem. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I have student loans to pay off. There is a standard of life that most people learn from a young age, such as starting a career right after college. I was terrified of it and still am. I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t want to hate my 9 to 5 and be stuck in the same place for years. So I didn’t start my career, yet.
After some weeks of searching, I found a super cheap study abroad program focusing on China. This program had a few different cities to chose from to study in. The most popular being Beijing, Shanghai, or Kunming.There was one city, the cheapest, that really drew my attention. After contacting the adviser from the site, I found out that no one else had signed up for that location yet. There was an extra discount on the cost because of this. This was extremely last minute and he told me that I had two days until the deadline to sign up. After looking up the place, it seemed perfect. It was in the Northeast, so the accent would be close to standard, it wasn’t super polluted, and the city looked nice. The biggest plus for me was the price.
I still wasn’t very sure of whether I should even do anything other than start looking for an engineering job. This was such a great opportunity and the price was unbeatable. I knew I would never feel perfectly comfortable with my decision, so I took the plunge and sent in my application and reservation fee. After many back and forth emails, figuring out how to get my Chinese visa, and using the miles on my rewards card to get a free plane ticket to China (and back eventually), I finally completed everything that needed to be done to secure my trip. I will be attending Dalian University of Technology in their foreign program for Mandarin in Dalian, China.
When I return home in 6 months, I plan on getting an engineering job and staying in Cleveland for a couple of years. I need to pay off my student loans and I definitely want to try out working full time an engineer. For now, all I can focus on is China. I’m excited for this new journey. It’s the first time i’ll be living abroad. I’ll finally get to experience the country I’ve read and heard so much about.
Feel free to share any cool or interesting experiences you had studying abroad in the comments! What do you think about not starting a career in the degree you obtained, right after graduating?