Some Rather Large Baby-Steps 

I have never been to Asia before. Needless to say, there are many aspects of my Fall Beijing study abroad program that make me both excited and nervous. One scenario that has kept me rather preoccupied is: what would I do if I were to get lost or find myself alone in that big city? Here is a little background information about myself that might lend some insight as to why this question worries me so much: I have never lived in a city. Seriously, Geneva, NY is the biggest, most exciting place I have ever lived. The concept of urban life is something I cannot even imagine.  The concept of urban life in a non-English speaking country is even more daunting. In order to make my transition to Beijing life easier, I decided to take baby-steps that would (hopefully) ease me into life in China. My first baby step is enrollment into Middlebury’s Summer Chinese School; an intensive language immersion program in Vermont.

This program is for students of all walks of life. We arrive at Middlebury College over the summer and sign a language pledge promising that we will only communicate in the language we are studying (in my case, Chinese). There 9 other language programs here: Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, Hebrew, German, Arabic, and Japanese. For 6-8 weeks, we live and work with people who are also learning our language. I have been here at Middlebury for 3 days already but I will not sign the language pledge until tomorrow and classes will not begin until the day after.

So far, I am most impressed with the people here. Every person in my dorm is involved in the Chinese school either as a student or a TA. I am surrounded be people who are brave enough to take the challenge of giving up English for 8 weeks. Fortunately, I studied Chinese for two years already, however I have meet some people who have never spoken a word of it before and will be bound to the same pledge; these are the students whom I find to be most brave. Additionally, everyone here is very passionate and enthusiastic about learning. They have a wide range of interests and talents, but we all share a commitment to learning Chinese.

I am very nervous about taking the language pledge tomorrow, but I look forward to the day when I am so comfortable with my classmates and the language that I will not mind the pledge at all. Hopefully, through Middlebury’s program, that day will come soon. I am so grateful that I have this opportunity to give my Chinese a test run here before actually arriving in China. If I post again to Asiapod before this program is over, I will not be able to do so in English (aka “language pollution”), so I hope you find a reliable translator so that you can read what I have to share!

The Chinese Dorm!

Me and my dorm

One of many pretty buildings at Middlebury

“No English Allowed” here we go…