By Annecy Daggett
When I found out I had been accepted into the William and Mary Summer in Beijing study abroad program, I was filled with pure excitement, but as the program neared, I developed many reservations about studying abroad. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I worried I wasn’t ready to live in a foreign country for seven weeks, especially a country as different from the United States as China. I questioned the decision to study abroad the summer after my freshman year, thinking maybe I should have waited until the next summer. But as soon as I arrived in Beijing, all these worries disappeared, and the excitement set in. Having traveled to China once before for a week, the new culture didn’t come as a complete shock, but this time I was fully immersed. I quickly became accustomed to ordering meals in Chinese and paying in yuan. Even without a language pledge, my American friends and I started speaking Chinese to each other outside of class because in China it just felt natural. One of my favorite experiences from the trip was visiting the Summer Palace with a few friends. After walking around the historic site and admiring the beautiful architecture, we found a place to sit, enjoy the scenery, and play a Chinese card game. We ended up surrounded by Chinese children and adults, watching us play and offering tips and advice for the next move. Even as outsiders, we were welcomed into their culture with enthusiasm.
Not only were excursions to famous sites incredible but so were the daily experiences of living in a foreign country. Every day was an exciting new adventure. From ordering food in Chinese, to navigating the subways, to playing pickup ultimate Frisbee with students from around the world, every day was filled with new experiences and opportunities to practice Chinese. Nearing the end of my time in Beijing, I began to miss living in China before I even left. Returning to the United States, I missed hearing Chinese all around me. I missed ordering in Chinese and eating with chopsticks. After my study abroad experience in China, I wondered why I ever doubted that it was the right decision.