May 27 -- Written by Christie Rosenzweig
Don’t be sad that it is over; be happy that it has happened. That phrase is one of the only things keeping my eyes dry right now. Those words, along with the anticipation and anxiety of seeing my loved ones. I feel anxious to see them because how can I ever answer the inevitable question “how was your trip?” To say “it was amazing” or “the time of my life” would be an incredible understatement of the experience that I just had. I can still hardly fathom that I just participated in the 2012 China Exchange program. I can barely believe that I have friends that I will miss desperately on the other side of the world from my home. As a child I dreamed of digging a hole in my backyard to China, but I never imagined what it would be like to actually be there. And when I realized that a trip to China was my reality, what I experienced greatly exceeded any preconceived expectations. The kindness, generosity, and friendship that I was shown are still almost unfathomable. Not to mention the scenic beauty of the setting where this amazing experience took place. A dream could not have been as sweet.
At first I was not sure I would be able to handle spending almost an entire month away from everything I have ever known. As a first time traveler, and a complete homebody, I was more than nervous about how I would react in such an unfamiliar setting. Now that this trip has ended, I feel as if the time I spent here was only a mere fraction of the time needed to truly engage in this kind of experience. There is so much to learn about China, and Chongqing, too, that only experience can teach a person. I feel as if I have had a little taste of what life is like in China, and it has only made me hungry for a much larger bite.
I feel now more than ever that I want so badly to return to this country. As I squinted through tears while I waved my last goodbyes to the students who truly made this trip worth writing home about, all I wanted was to stay and continue on this incredible journey. Saying goodbye to my closest Chinese friends was like leaving a part of myself behind. I will cherish the new friendships that I have made and hopefully maintain them for the rest of my life. This is just the beginning of our relationship and I hope to continue to learn and grow from my conversations with my Chinese friends and not let distance interfere with the bonds we have made. I can only hope that they know how much I truly appreciate all that they have done. I could never say “thank you” or “she she” enough times to compensate for the efforts and kindness they provided. I know I will never be able to repay my friends for what they have given me through our brief interactions, but I don’t think that is as important as what their behavior has truly displayed. Because of how I was treated, I want to welcome newcomers to my country and assist them in any way I can. It’s not about repaying the friends I have made, but about showing that kindness to complete strangers who are in need of the same kind of assistance as I needed over these past few weeks. It is challenging and even slightly embarrassing to be unable to communicate with the people in your surroundings. I will never again be annoyed by foreigners in America who are struggling with English, because I know now that it can be equally as frustrating for them. Even people who were not partners were patient, understanding and helpful, and I cannot say that I see these same qualities demonstrated as blatantly in the country where I am from. I can only hope that I have the opportunity to repay the kindness of the CTBU students as I have these kinds of encounters in my American life.
There are too many things to miss about China to list because it would only make me upset again. I do believe, however, that the attitudes and behaviors that I was introduced to, and appreciated while abroad can be just as prevalent here in America if I allow them to be. I will never, ever forget the lessons I have learned or the friends I have made on this trip. I have a new appreciation, and respect for Chinese culture, people, and attitudes and I am so grateful for this incredible experience.