The Calm Before the Storm of Departure

On the eve of my departure, I’ve finally found the time to sit down and write this pre-departure post. I’ve tried and failed to fit my entire wardrobe into my suitcase while keeping it under 50 pounds. I’ve chased my cat out of my luggage on multiple occasions. Finally, I’ve closed it and am ready to go. So, I can finally sit down and think about a few of the things I’m most looking forward to this semester. Hopefully, I’ll look back on this post in a few months and laugh at how simple these things were and how many other surprises came to enhance my semester.

First and foremost, obviously, comes the food. Specifically, the rice–the steamed, plain, white rice. The first time I visited China, five years ago during an exchange program offered during my sophomore year of high school, the quality of the rice there struck me. Clearly, that impression has stuck with me. Chinese rice puts American rice to shame, and I cannot wait to be reunited with it. More than the rice, I look forward to authentic Chinese cuisine–from the street stands to the local hole-in-the-wall restaurants that I’ve heard surround my host institution, Minzu University.

Minzu University itself is a whole other source of exciting opportunities. In Chinese, Minzu (Mínzú, or 民族) means minority, an umbrella term that the Chinese government uses to describe 55 groups of the Chinese population. These minorities make up about nine percent of China’s population, while the majority Han population makes up the rest. However, at Minzu University, ethnic minorities make up about 60 percent of the university’s student body, and all 55 minorities are represented. I can’t wait to learn more about the diversity of China’s population, and Minzu University will hopefully be the perfect place for that.

Finally, I’m excited to put my Chinese to the test for the next four months. I’ve been studying Chinese since 2006, but only spent a total of two weeks in China. At this point, there’s no better way to improve than to immerse myself in the language long-term. I’ll be participating in Hamilton College’s ACC Chinese language program. Through ACC, I’ll take 16 credits of language courses, pursue independent research within the local community, and take a deep dive into Chinese language in culture in a whole new way.

I hope to dive into these topics and more in future blog posts. Until then, I’ll focus on getting through my fourteen-hour flight tomorrow!

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