An Open Letter to the SYA China Class of 2020

Kate V. is currently a junior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Texas.

If you’re reading this, that probably means that you have already embarked, or will soon embark, on one of the most amazing, terrifying, transformative, and unforgettable experiences of your life. The SYA experience is not one that can be distilled into a few simple takeaways; what you learn here affects how you see the world in the greatest and smallest of ways. SYA taught me about tapping into the capabilities that I never knew I had; it also taught me to never underestimate how much I was going to miss ice water. It taught me about cultural competence, about how to appreciate a culture from within, not view it as foreign and “other,” but it also taught me to always keep toilet paper in my backpack and how to haggle with fruit vendors.

I could talk about the immeasurable impact that SYA has had on my view of both myself and the world, but I think that most people already know that SYA is going to change them. I remember looking at the SYA website the year before I came and seeing the text at the top of the page in bold: “SYA China will change you.” I expected to leave this year as a changed person, but what I didn’t know was how deep that change was and how it would really affect me. It’s impossible to predict or appreciate how much and what exactly will change, but as I sit typing this on May 12 I hardly recognize the person who came to China in September. The amount of both personal and intellectual growth that everyone has gone through this year is absolutely astounding.

Here are some words of advice as you continue on your journey. First and foremost, as Mr. McLoughlin will no doubt remind you, GET OUT EARLY. Escape the SYA bubble and interact with China as a whole. That being said, get to know your classmates. The people I have met here are some of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had. With a group of 30, all of us got really tight and I can honestly say that I am going home with 29 good friends. Second, don’t be afraid to get out of the comfort zone that you establish in China. It’s far too easy to fall into a rhythm of life in China and stop going new places once you’ve become comfortable in the culture. Do as much as possible. See as much as possible. Try everything, don’t be afraid of new experience, and seize each and every day that you are here. It may seem hard to believe (I know that I felt like 9 months was a long time when I came,) but time flies quicker than you can possibly imagine. Make the best of every second you’re here, savor every experience, and have an absolutely amazing year.  


SYA China Class of 2019

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA China
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