Hannah S. is currently a junior at SYA China and a blogger for our Campus Reporter Program. She comes to SYA from Polytechnic School (CA). Read more of her work throughout the year here.
One of the most memorable experiences from our November 2016 trip to Shanxi province was when we visited a local high school in Datong city. As we left our hotel that morning, I grumbled to my friends about everything and anything─the early wake up call, the seeming Arctic temperature outside, my lingering cough. However, when we arrived at Datong Erfuzhong and were greeted with a boisterous welcome from the local students, all my cares seemed to fade away.
We got up on stage to be introduced to the Datong students and faculty. As I stood on stage, waiting to introduce myself, I looked over the hundreds of students and wondered at the circumstances that had brought me here. I found it hard to believe that in just a couple of short months, my Mandarin language ability and confidence had improved enough that I would be able to introduce myself in Mandarin in front of masses of native Chinese. It felt surreal.
Over the next couple hours, I sat through three classes entirely in Mandarin. At each class, we'd begin by meeting the students and then move on to learning whatever it was that the students were learning that day─in this case, physics, math, and literature. I was surprised by how much of the instruction I was able to understand.
Another surprise was how excited the local students were to see us. At one point, I found myself on the sports field, surrounded by maybe 50 students, signing autographs! Everywhere my fellow SYA students and I went, we were followed by a swarm of little local, Datong kids. I think that when we finally had to go back to the hotel, we were as sad to go as the Datong students were to see us leave.