When the time came to sign up for my high school classes, I knew that I had to take a language. I knew I didn’t want to take Spanish because I never enjoyed the classes I had taken in middle school. I wanted to be unique and take a language no one really took. I remember taking middle school Chinese and enjoyed learning about the language and culture. I decided to sign up for Chinese, not knowing what I would eventually get myself into.
A few weeks into freshman year Chinese, I had learned that my high school had a sister school in Nanjing, China. Every summer, teachers would go to our sister school and teach a summer camp there, immersing the students into the English language and culture. Every other year, they brought students with them and they got to stay with a host family from our sister school. I never expected to enjoy my Chinese class as much as I did and when I heard about the opportunity to go to China, I knew I had to go.
Fast forward to the summer before Junior year, at the Charlotte Douglas airport with nine of my peers and about 20 teachers. We all said bye to our families and were off to Beijing China for two and a half weeks. The transportation time took about a full day to get there. China is twelve hours ahead of us so the first night, I barely slept. My first Chinese breakfast consisted of many foods I never thought I would eat for breakfast. We spent three days in Beijing, exploring the city and visiting all the classic tourists spots. The coolest place we went to was definitely the Great Wall of China. It was crazy to actually be there in person since I have watched so many videos and pictures of it. Being in China was very unusual since a ton of people were asking to take pictures with us. We definitely stood out and felt like celebrities.
After our three days in Beijing, we took the bullet train to Nanjing to stay with our host families and attend the classes our sister school had organized for us. Luckily for me, I knew my host student because she was actually my exchange student back in January when students from their school stayed with students from our school. I felt much more comfortable staying with her since I had already formed a relationship with her. Her family spoke no English but they were super welcoming. On the weekdays, we would go to our sister school to go to various classes such as cooking, music, Kun Fu, culture, art, etc. I learned a ton about the chinese culture and how different it is from the American lifestyle.
I met so many amazing students throughout my entire Chinese experience. My exchange student and I still talk to this day. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity my high school gave me to be able to visit China and learn all about the culture. Not many Juniors in high school can say they have been an exchange student in China. I hope that one day I will be able to go back to China and possibly live there at a point in my life!