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Beyond borders

Wei Lin | Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This passing summer may have possibly been the most eventful summer I’ve ever had. I was granted the opportunity to study Chinese in Beijing with the Duke Study in China program.
Since my parents cannot communicate in English with me, I speak to them in Mandarin and my Fuzhounese dialect. I started in third year Chinese last year and felt comfortable and confident enough to spend an entire summer under the smoggy skies of Beijing. At first, I wanted to go to Beijing, study Chinese, head back to New York and never go back again.

This was not my first time in China, nor was it the second. It was the sixth. Prior to my departure from New York, my perception of China included dirty streets, rude people and awkward bathrooms. It was only after I had ordered food entirely in Chinese, gotten a temporary phone card in Chinese and used a squatting toilet did it occur to me I was in China, the China with the streets, the people and the bathroom.

However, this time I had much more to experience than just that; I had a whole two months to explore an entire city, to survey every nook and cranny, to eat at every renowned restaurant. This was my great adventure. I traveled a lot outside of my class time. My friends and I took weekend excursions to provinces hundreds of miles away.
By the end of my two months in Beijing, I learned so much about my heritage, and I was much closer to being fluent in Mandarin. I was blessed to have met so many great people, both within and outside the program. By the end of the summer, I was set on coming back to China; in fact, I accepted that my career will most likely be closely tied with China. It was truly a contrast from my initial plan.

If I could identify my time in China with one word, it would be “metamorphosis.”  I went through many hardships and changes, but the results were nothing but positive. (Granted, I still have a slight cough from the air pollution.)

I love my Chinese heritage, and I love being a Chinese major (along with my two other majors.) I enjoy sharing the awesome stories I have with friends. I love the thrill of going bungee jumping into a beautiful gorge. I miss relying solely on my Chinese to get around.

One of the items on the Dean’s A-List is to learn a language. Just do it. Enrich your time at Notre Dame by studying a language and using it abroad. Enrich your life by mastering another language. It can open doors of opportunities to learn, live and love life.