My 2012 study abroad New Year’s resolutions
I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions. For the most part, I feel like if you want to accomplish something, there’s no need to wait until a specific day to start doing it. That being said, New Years is still a great reminder of how quick time flies. If nothing else, it allows me to reflect on everything I said I wanted to do over the course of the previous year (and whether or not I actually did them), as well as push me to start planning what I want to do next. In the spirit of that mindset, here’s 5 things I accomplished this past year, and 5 things I’m looking forward to/ want to/ need to do in 2012.
5 Things I Actually Accomplished in 2011
1. Graduated College
College was a great time, no question. I made some of the best friends a guy could ask for, lived in a foreign country for a year, and academically speaking, I learned more in those 4 years than I did in the previous 18. I was never legitimately worried about not graduating, but spending $200,000 on 4 years of education when you have no clue what you want to do in life can cause some difficulties. I won’t remember 90% of what I learned in college, but Holy Cross definitely deserves some credit for developing my critical thinking, independence, and for giving me my first opportunity to live abroad. My diploma says I majored in Asian Studies, but it was probably more like Life Studies.
2. Studied Abroad In Beijing, China
During my sophomore year, my first year studying Chinese, a rep from from the Hopkins-Nanjing Program came to Holy Cross to pitch their grad program to students who were graduating within the next two years and had an interest in continuing with their Chinese. I walked by the room he was speaking in (didn’t even bother going in) and remember thinking to myself that nothing could make me want to keep studying Chinese after I had fulfilled my two credit language graduation requirement. Look at where I am right now – I just graduated from an intensive Chinese language program. Isn’t life funny.
3. Had A Full Conversation In Chinese
Don’t get me wrong, I have years before I’ll even be close to a native speaker. However, considering that before coming to Beijing I had never spoken more than 2 consecutive sentences in Chinese, I’m light-years ahead of where I was 4 months ago. I remember the first time I had an actual full unplanned conversation with a guy while working out at the park, the time I had to interview an elderly woman (at a different park) about life as an old person in China for one of my classes, and when, for the first time, it was actually easier for me to communicate in Chinese than in English. Overall, I’m happy with my progress…for now.
4. Saw The Great Wall Of China
I love getting to see the trademark landmarks of every country I visit, and I’m always sure to get a picture of myself there. Not because I plan on showing everyone I know – in all honesty, if people don’t read my blog then they won’t see my pictures. I do it because for me, it’s a tangible symbol of what of I’m doing and what I’ve accomplished. Like I’ve said before, experiencing the Great Wall was the most significant indication that I’ve really made it – that I’m living in China, that I’m really learning how to speak Chinese, and that I’m traveling around a country on the complete opposite side of the world.
5. Didn’t Go Home For Christmas
Not heading back to the U.S. for Christmas didn’t make me realize that I could live without my family, it made understand how important they are to me, and that no matter where I am in this world, I’ll always be able to connect with them (even if it’s just through a computer screen). It also made me realize that if I can miss eating the two best meals of the year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) with my family, then I should be able to combat any homesickness that comes my way. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, but I do know that with the support of my friends and family, both in Beijing and back in the U.S., along with my quickly developing self-reliance, I have the ability to stay abroad as long or as short as I want.
5 Things I Want To Accomplish in 2012
6. See A Giant Panda
I’ve seen almost every famous Chinese/Beijing symbol there is to see…except for a Panda. And it’s not because I don’t know where to look or it’s really inconvenient. For the past 4 and a half months, I’ve literally lived next to the Zoo. If you wanted to rent an apartment in the area of CET, you would say you want to live in the Zoo area; when we would come back to the dorm at 3:00 AM on a Sunday morning, we would tell the cab driver to head to the Zoo; the closest subway station is called the Zoo station; students refer to this area as the Zoo (partly because of the awful traffic problem, partly because of the questionable fashion sense of many of the people here, and of course because we live next to the Beijing Zoo). I figure it’s about time I cross the street and see my first Giant Panda.
7. Travel Around More Of China
China’s a big a** place. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of different parts of Beijing this past semester, as well as travel to Xi’an in November, but that means I’ve only covered about .001% of this country. I still want to see Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan (Southwestern China), the harbor down in Hong Kong, Shanghai – China’s New York City, Kashgar in the western part of the Xinjiang, maybe gamble down in Macao, hang out on the beach in Hainan, and if the Chinese government permits, my number one goal is to get to Tibet.
8. Travel Around Southeast Asia
It’s amazing how unlike-Scotland my experience studying abroad in Beijing has been. In Scotland, I had class 4 hours a week; In China, around 25. In Scotland, I golfed almost everyday; In China, I have yet to see a golf course. While I was studying abroad in Scotland, I traveled to 10 or 11 other countries; I’ve yet to leave China. My goal is to fix this within the next 6 months. Possibilities include backpacking the Silk Road this summer, hitting up South Korea or Japan whenever it’s convenient, a trip with my friends to India (not Southeast Asia, I know), and now that Kim Jong Il is no longer at the helm, maybe trying to find a way into what might be the world’s most hated country (sorry, North Korea).
9. Advance My Still Extremely Poor Chinese
While my Chinese is infinitely better than when I started studying Chinese back during my sophomore year, it’s still infinitely worse than (almost) every native Chinese speaker. My goal in China since day 1 has been to learn Chinese, and until another opportunity presents itself, which it may not, I’m going to continue doing it. It’s a well known fact that it’s nearly impossible to be as fluent as a native speaker, however, I’m going to try and get pretty damn close.
10. Keep Living The Dream
This has been my motto since I was in Scotland. I’m totally aware of how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do what I’m doing, but living the dream doesn’t mean I want to be lazy while studying abroad in another country. Living The Dream is about actually Living. In my case, I didn’t want to Live in an office for 40+ hours a week, but rather than waste those 40+ hours, I chose to spend them working at something I want to be doing (studying and traveling). Having been in China since August, I’ve had to face a lot of realizations about life after undergrad, but instead of flying home because it might be the easy thing to do, I’m going to work as hard as I can to continue doing what I want to do.
So here’s to Living The Dream in 2012
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!