Prepare for an obnoxiously long post thanks to my own negligence to post since I’ve been here!
I really wish that I stuck to my will to write because I have done so much in the past three weeks that I could have written at least 10 blog posts by now…
But of course, I’ve forgotten most of what I did.
Basically, if I could summarize my time here so far in one word it would be: hectic. I feel like I haven’t had much time to process everything that has been happening so far. Very little was explained to us at Orientation, so I’ve just been winging it for the most part with figuring out classes and so far I’m doing alright. I also did not consider how many things I would have to buy here to live comfortably for the next nine months. I have probably spent over 4,000 kuai in these three weeks alone at Walmart, IKEA, Sanjiang, and the shops here on campus. I’ve hardly even splurged either, unless you count those 12 kuai Oreo milkshakes at the campus Hong Kong Milk Tea shop ( I call it a necessary coping mechanism).
The week is still not over, but so far I have been battling a cough, interviewing for a staff position for a campus club, getting my residence permit, trying to get a package from home, and coming to the realization that I have to teach myself Mandarin 1 all over again.
Since I got off the flight to Shanghai, I’ve been feeling ill and it’s only gotten worse since I’ve been here. I’ve been trying to self medicate with medicine I’ve brought from home but nothing really seems to be working. I even went to the campus clinic, which was an experience since the doctor couldn’t speak English. For 50 kuai, I left with two days worth of antibiotics, herbal Chinese medicine, and sore throat medicine. My throat wasn’t even sore, so I wasn’t surprised when my friend told me she had been given the exact same medicines even though we were having different symptoms. I decided to save the sore throat medicine for when I really need it and stick with the other two. The antibiotics helped somewhat along with the Mucinex I brought from home. I can’t really say much for the herbal Chinese medicine considering I really don’t know what it was supposed to help with. Considering I read the instructions wrong and technically overdosed on it multiple times for days, I’m just glad to be alive. The cough seems to be getting better, but I hate being that kid in school who can’t help but cough obnoxiously and gets glared at. My Chinese friends seem to be the most concerned about my well being and have made many suggestions for getting better. I’m really thankful for them!
For campus orientation and most of the events for the freshmen and exchange students were sponsored by Vis-a-Vis, an on campus club dedicated to creating an integrated environment for all students on campus. Even though the university does encourage cross-cultural exchange, it doesn’t happen as often as I expected. I came in with the expectation that I would have at least two Chinese roommates only to find that there is no where on campus that could ever happen. Our buildings are separate, most likely to accommodate the strict rules they enforce upon the Chinese students, such as an 11 p.m. curfew. Vis-a-vis has made it their mission to combat these rules and make it easier for students to interact on campus. I really want to be i n this organization since it is very similar to Project Pengyou, where I served as a club officer. I thought it would be a breeze to join, but I was mistaken. I am surprised that the three stage interview process hasn’t caused all of my hair to fall out. I’m still waiting to hear back from them on whether I made it in or not. Fingers crossed that they made some room for an American on the team!
Yesterday, I begrudgingly went to the local police station to apply for my residence permit. I can’t seem to wrap my head around why I had to buy an expensive visa and spend even more money to be able to stay here for less than a year. Anyway, I waited almost three hours just to get my picture taken and sign a paper. Despite this, I met another American! I’ve met only two since I’ve been here so to meet another really made my day. We hit it off instantly and we even had dinner together and visited a bar later that night. It was the most fun that I’ve had since I’ve been here so in a way I am grateful for having to make that trip.
I could write an entire post on trying to retrieve my mail alone. Since I am a master procrastinator and waited until the last minute to pack for my trip I forgot a lot of things I needed at home. My mom sent me some of these things more than a week ago and I still haven’t received my package. No one here seemed to know anything about getting mail other than asking me, “Did you get a phone call or text message from them?” From who? Why would I need to get a call from the post office? Why is there no campus mail box where I can get the mail addressed to me? After some searching, I discovered the mess they call a mail room here and apparently my box did arrive yesterday, except they sent it right back to the Ningbo Post Office. Since there was no way to get in contact to with me and I didn’t come to retrieve it, I guess they figured it would be great idea to take it away from the campus mail room and hold it somewhere far out of my reach. Thankfully, the nice auntie in the mail room is going to help me get back…. in about a week.
To top it all off, I realized that a large portion of my Mandarin studies at USF have been a complete waste. Not only have I learned an entirely different curriculum than everyone else, traditional characters are not used in teaching here like I was taught, only simplified characters is used for instruction. If you know anything about learning Mandarin, you know that 汉语 and 漢語 are the same word, but do not look the same. Some words, like this one, share similarities where I am able to figure out what the word is, but a majority of the time I am completely lost when trying to read. The only way that I can pass classes this year is to learn not only what I already know over again, but also the old material from Mandarin 1 at UNNC that I don’t know to be on the same pace as everyone else. My greatest wish right now is that a world wide standard pace, instruction, and teaching materials be instilled in every institution for every language. It would make things easier for every student who travels abroad to learn a new language and right now, it would kill this pending migraine. Clearly, nothing in life comes easy, but I’m just going to take it with a grain of salt and study harder for Mandarin than I ever have before.
I won’t give up that easily!