Although we’ve only been in China for a couple of days, our group has already been on quite the adventure! Due to the massive cancellation of flights because of the bad weather condition in China, our arrival in Xiamen was met with one obstacle after another, but everyone did their part to make sure things still ran as smoothly as possible, from the program director and the chaperons who helped fix flights to the students who stepped up to take responsibility for themselves and each other. And when we did finally arrive in Xiamen, there was already so much to do! One student, Matthew, described his feelings about and experiences with the recent events:
“I think I would be lying if I said that these past 24 hours were uninteresting. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the last day was one of, if not, the most interesting day of my life. There were so many new things that I tried, new places I visited, and new people I met, that it is all going by like a blur. All I know is that I’m having a lot of fun!
After a morning of being at the airport and experiencing issues, delays and “drama,” as Dr. Chen would call it, finally arriving in Xiamen was a major relief. I could feel a wave of stress lift off the group as a whole as we drove past the beautiful mountains, city, and seaside on our way to the Xiamen University campus. After unpacking everything into my new dorm room and eating a delicious lunch, me and my new roommate, Tim, walked down to a room in the Humanities Center, and opened it to find a room full of Xiamen University college students and our fellow program participants engaged in a horde of different types of games.
This room was loud. I sat down next to a group of people and watched as I played a game these volunteer students prepared for us that I didn’t quite understand yet but that appeared interesting. As I joined in the next round, I quickly learned that with all of the games in the room, we were encouraged to use as much Chinese as we could, and that if I wanted to learn the rules of the game, I would have to figure them out, as they were being explained in that language. At first, I thought there was no way I would be able to understand how the game was played. Then it came to me: By watching the university student point to certain cards, use the cards in a certain way, and listening to the words used in the explanation, I was not just learning how to play the card game, more importantly my limited Chinese vocabulary was expanding. It was overall a very fun experience, and now I have a game that I want to take back to my friends in America. From what I got out of today, I can see that the next six weeks here in China are going to be amazing. This is an exciting learning adventure that I am never going to forget, and I’m almost positive the other participants agree with me.”
Following all of yesterday’s excitement, the group spent today celebrating the Fourth of July by touring some of Xiamen’s famous historical sites and tasting local food. We visited the South Putuo Temple, Huli Shan Fortress, and the Jimei School Village and adjacent Jiageng Park, home of Xiamen University’s founder, Tan Kah Kee. Each location offered excellent views of Xiamen and the surrounding ocean. Finally, we topped off the day’s activities with a group dinner at one of the best seafood buffets in Xiamen. The students enjoyed eating their fill and getting a taste of various Chinese meats, vegetables, fruits, and desserts.
Tomorrow we will begin all program activities according to the schedule, including language classes and tutoring, as well as an on-site orientation. Everyone is excited to get started!