My time in China so far has been nothing short of incredible. While it has certainly been a roller coaster of emotions and impressions I can confidently say that as I am nearing the end of my time here, I will most certainly be returning in the future.
Before I arrived in China, while I was excited, I was apprehensive about the semester ahead. Was it going to be academically impossible and no fun at all? Would I really be able to survive being gone for so long and not being allowed to use English to express all I was feeling and what was going on in my head? When I arrived in Beijing in January, I was not confident that I would make it the whole way. About two weeks in my dad told me that he not yet to paid for my spring semester I remember seriously considering the possibility of just calling it quits and going home at the end of January, because I was really struggling at the start. Fortunately, I decided to stick it out, and honestly I wish I could go back in time and thank myself for sticking it out because this has been one of, if not the best semester I have ever had.
Beijing was tough mostly because my lack of freedom. I had class from 8am to 4pm and then had 4 to 5 hours of homework every night. After all the academic stress I really had no motivation to do anything other than lay in bed and relax, so not only did I not explore much of Beijing (besides the Great Wall of course). In the few days I had to transition between my program in Beijing and my program in Hangzhou, I met up with a friend from high school who was living in Shanghai and had previously done the program that I was about to start. I think that his advice is what really turned my experience around, because he advised me that while I should still value the academic aspects of the trip that if all I do is stay in the dorm and do work my negative attitude towards China would not change. Interestingly enough, upon arriving in Hangzhou my teachers had a similar outlook. All of them said that we should limit ourselves to a few hours of homework per day and that going out and exploring Hangzhou was just as important as the schoolwork. In fact, all of my teachers continually said that the best way to really improve your language ability is to find a Chinese girlfriend.
If I were to actually try and describe all of the amazing memories I have made in my time in Hangzhou I am not sure anyone would have the time or stamina to read it all in one sitting so I decided to pick out a few parts of my trip that were especially important in making in making this such a memorable experience.