It took me right before the end to figure a lot of things out.
Like said before, I had read a lot about Chinese culture and been to China before, but I never felt like I understood China. Even throughout the majority of my most recent trip I was on an uphill battle trying to understand the Chinese Culture and overall China. Often you would hear people spell out the Acronym “T.I.C” or This is China. That was often peoples best explanation for why something was or wasn’t
However you never can really understand a culture until you’ve lived like they people of the culture do. You could observe any culture from the other side of a window, but until you step outside hear the language, smell the food and walk amongst the people that are of that culture. There is no real way to do it. Many people visit countries in a very touristy manner and only skim the surface.
In my last week, the figurative light switch turned on a light in my head, and China didn’t feel like as foreign as it did before. Maybe it was me, maybe it was my surroundings, but all of the sudden T.I.C. was not my excuse. I knew why, I couldn’t put it into words, but I understood China, the Chinese and everything in between.
It was like a bright light just clicked on. All of the sudden the language I had been having trouble with all summer began flushing in so easily. My time working in the office was less in English and more so in Chinese. I no longer felt like an outsider amongst the workers of the office, I was much a part of the office.
The Chinese collective culture is something that is hard to compare to a lot of places because it is so unique. I still have trouble explaining it now because how strange it was. I don’t know if it was me or if it was the people around me that had changed, but I finally didn’t feel so foreign I felt like family.
Yes, Family. Thinking about it makes me long for those moments again. It’s amazing, no one in the office is related to each-other, but we all felt like family. It’s something that as an International student and one specifically from the U.S., where sometimes our families feel less familiar that our friends that this group of people can find a binding strain that makes them closer than others.
I would ask for anything to have that short week back, and play it over in my mind, not because of what happened, but that feeling.
So many times Internationals never find that feeling when they study or work abroad. They search for something that is almost like family, because far from home there is only so many things that remind them of home.
I was still International. Completely and fully, but I had figured something out that last week. Something that I’m still trying to completely figure out; what it meant to be part of something larger even though I was myself alone.
Many Internationals are doing the same thing, and many are still alone.