Austin Priborsky (junior in English) is halfway through a year of study abroad in China:
As December ends, I can’t help but reflect on my time in China thus far. At ISU, I would be back home with family and be surrounded by the many different signs of the holiday season. But here in Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province), it is very different from home. I’m not sad that in China there’s no typical American holiday scenes or the weather isn’t what I’m used to in December (a constant 40-50°F) because I’m in a country where I have had so many new experiences!
Walk slowly and learning is a slow process
First thing I would like to mention about China is the stark difference in pace of lifestyle. Chinese people are very laid back and slow when it comes to dealing with paperwork and general errands. Unlike the US, they are in no rush to go anywhere. The only exception to this rule is the traffic. I will never, ever drive in China. They drive as if there aren’t any traffic laws. But I am glad to say, I have only seen one minor accident. Kindness seems to come to most Chinese people as second nature, especially towards foreigners. Going anywhere, whether it is to a popular site or just walking around, people ask me to take pictures. Walking around in the US, no one ever bats an eye as I walk by, but here in China, staring is both okay and common place. A little unsettling but after a couple months it, you get used to it.
There is always time to go out with friends and have fun
Some Chinese culture I particularly enjoy is KTV and 火锅(Hot Pot). KTV, or karaoke, is a very common pass time for Chinese people to do with family and friends. Karaoke is much more popular than in the US; there are whole businesses filled with many rooms for singing and ordering food and drinks. There are at least four decent KTV places within walking distance of my campus. I have been at least 6 or 7 times with friends and each time was great. Another great part about China is the food. All the food is served on top of varying types of noodles or rice, and authentic Chinese food tastes nothing like Hy-Vee Chinese food and the most important characteristic of Chinese food is that it is stir-fried or fried. My favorite way to eat food though is 火锅, or hot pot. The servers place a bowl filled with various flavored oils over a burner in the middle of the table. As the customer, you order the food and you cook it yourself in the oil. It is best with many friends and a colder day.
Chinese Culture is varied and profound
China has a deep, profound culture and a history that is many times the length of the United States. I don’t regret choosing to come here to study abroad even though the Chinese language is one of the hardest languages that I have tried learning. The only negative thing that I must say about China is the quantity of people can be very overwhelming at times. You might find it hard to find time alone, because there are people everywhere! Another issue one might have coming to China is its pollution, which in the city of Hangzhou, is relatively good. At times, it is bad enough to wear a mask, but generally you can get away with not wearing one. To some people this might be a little depressing, so I advise not coming to China if something like this bothers you.
At home, you depend on your parents. After leaving, you depend on friends
As with all study abroad experiences, I have of course met so many people, many who I hope to stay in contact with after leaving China. I was rushed into this experience because I live with 5 other people in one flat (three of us are from the US, two are from Norway, and one roommate is from Bulgaria) and you get to know people well after living with them for a whole semester. I would say the best part of study abroad, in any country, is meeting new people and opening yourself up to a new culture. There is so much you can learn about yourself and the world, even from just from one semester! If you are on the border of wanting to go abroad or stay home, I would strongly suggest that you take the opportunity and go explore the world!
I wish you a safe journey!