I was talking to my Oma and Opa (Dutch for Grandma and Grandpa) and they asked for an update. This isn’t the first time that they, nor many other people in my family, have asked for a blog update. But it was the first time I realized that I haven’t done a very good job keeping the people in my life up to date on my China adventures. So Oma, Opa, and all the other important people in my life here is the update:
I just tried to check my blog, but wordpress is actually blocked in China so that didn’t happen. As such I am not sure when my last post was, lets just assume it was near when I left China in 2011.
August 2011- I return to SF after spending 15 months living, working, studying and traveling in China. My friend picked up from the airport and we went straight to dim sum.
Waiting in line outside of Hong Kong Lounge on 17th and Geary I am shocked by the amount of white people I am seeing, I make this comment to my friends and they give me a weird look. There are few places in America that you will find more Chinese than outside HK Lounge on a Saturday morning. BAMB! Reverse culture shock
September 2011- Start of first semester of senior year. I am President of my business fraternity, working 20 hours a week, taking a full class load, and have a GF to boot. I stay busy and time flies.
December 2011- First time going home in 2 years. Good to see family finally. Seattle is a much smaller city than I remember, but just as grey.
January 2012- No longer president, only taking 3 classes, no GF and not working -I lived with an old lady and did her taxes, in exchange she let me stay in her basement for free, thus saving me $800+/ month. So I quit on campus job.
Another reason I quit my job was to make room for my internship at ChinaSF. I could write an entire post about ChinaSF, but the short of it is that it introduced me to how business is done between China and US/SF, how stuff gets done in The City, and gave me a good overview of what my options for employment were after graduation if I wanted to do this whole Mr. US/China thing.
May 2012- Graduated. Ended my last semester with a 4.0 (dunno how that happened), cumulative GPA of Three point Sixty Nine…. hehe
May 2012-August 2012- Worked 40 hours a week or so at ChinaSF. Bartended to pay for ren… nope still living for free with old lady… bartended to pay for food and booze.
Also had till mid July to make up my mind about what to do in the fall.
Option 1. Stay in SF to continue working on start up that I had been developing over the last few months of senior year, while simultaneously getting a real job to pay for bills (old lady said she only wanted to give free housing to students, I had by end of summer to move out).
Option 2. Accept scholarship and move to Shanghai to study Chinese for 1 year.
It was a really hard choice, and I went back and forth on it MANY times, but in the end I chose Option 2.
September 1st- Landed in Shanghai. 1 year and 2 weeks after I left, damn I was glad to be back.
What am I doing?
I am on a Chinese Government scholarship studying Chinese language at East China Normal University in Shanghai
What do I spend my time doing?
My time basically gets spent in one of three areas: Chinese, projects/internships, social.
Chinese- This is what I mainly do. I have class for 3 hours M-F every morning, afternoons I also spend a lot of time studying. Every area of my life really revolves around this central theme; Chinese. How am I using it, what am I doing to better understand it. Etc. However, this isn’t to say that all I do is study Chinese. Another important aspect of studying Chinese understands the culture that goes a long with it. I spend a lot of time reading about China. I read Sinocism every day, because it’s the best. As well tech blogs, and internet gossip.
Projects/Internships- I am pretty entrepreneurial, and as such usually have a few projects going at the same time. In China this has included an American Accent Training program for Chinese college students/working professionals, founding the Univeristy of San Francisco- Shanghai Alumni Association (one day all of China), and writing a blog about launching your carrier in China (on hold). I would add to projects working out, which will get covered in a sec.
I have also had a number of internships. First I continued to intern with ChinaSF in the SH office. In January I started an internship with CTrip running an experiment looking at the way they value their Pay Per Click advertising. I was also a tour guide for Asia Institute, where I helped lead MBA students from Xavier on a weeklong tour including Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai.
Social- What I do when I am not studying or working. Shanghai is an amazing city to meet people. Obviously, there are a lot of Chinese in Shanghai and living on a university campus I am able to pretty actively engage them. But as amazing is the diversity of the foreign population, both on campus and in the city. I have fun engaging with both groups.
Oma wants to know, am I…
…Happy? Yes very much so. Just like I would anywhere, I have my unhappy moments. But I am living in the city that I want to live in, doing what I want to do. I am very happy.
… Healthy? Haha well… I guess I am as healthy as anyone can be in China. Between the air pollution, pigs in the water, H7N9, gutter oil, fake beef, and polluted water on the veggies, I do find time to go to the gym.
I have recently started doing the Strong Lifts 5×5 program. Few weeks in and its going well. My goal is basically just to be able to hold my own against my younger brother, who decided to become a beast after I left for college.
… Having fun? So much fun. Every day here is an adventure. I get to meet so many people, from so many different back grounds. I am learning so much more than just Chinese, and about so many more cultures other than just Chinas. There is an event going on ever night here weather at a bar, club, restaurant, KTV joint, on campus, or Game of Thrones Season premier at a friends house.
How’s My Chinese?
A mess. When I was learning Chinese I spent 3 semesters studying at USF before the end of my Sophomore year. I moved to Shanghai in May 2010 and when I got off the plane realized I couldn’t say anything. I spend the summer listening to Chinese but was too afraid to speak.
When I went to Beijing I went back to Beginner because I wanted to do the intensive course, and was not ready for Intermediate. I spend the next 2 semesters getting to the point where I was not afraid to talk. By the time I got back to SF in August 2012 I could survive and was confident trying to speak Chinese.
In SF I didn’t study first semester, but I had Chinese GF and was surrounded by Chinese friends. Again, a lot of listening but no speaking. Second semester I was in Business Chinese, but being senior year I was facing serious motivational issues so there wasn’t much serious studying that went on. What helped my Chinese more than anything was ChinaSF, where I was constantly listening to and under some circumstances speaking Chinese.
I got to ENCU in September and took the placement test and got placed in the highest level of beginner (where normally you should be after 2 semesters of intensive study). Basically what had happened since I left China was that I had continued to speak and listen to Chinese, while pretty much avoiding reading or writing at all costs. Consequently when I entered in to a program that placed most of its emphasis on reading and writing (and testing, Chinese education system!) I tested very poorly.
Note: I actually tested into level 4 out of 5 levels of the beginner classes, but after 5 days of reviewing characters I was able to remember enough and test up a level.
In terms of speaking and listening the class was way to easy. I would often find myself talking to students in upper intermediate or advanced classes, and have them comment that my oral Chinese was better than theirs. Of course I was 客气and said that of course their characters were better than mine.
Ok, so… how good is my Chinese?
· I can basically say whatever I want to say. However, many times it comes out choppy and sounding like a 5 year old. Last semester I went to ask the front desk for an iron, in Chinese I asked for “the hot metal thing that would make my shirt look nice.” Then made the ironing motion. She got it.
· I can curse people out, and bitch at them when they: cut me in line, stare at me, try to rip me off, make rude comments about me assuming that I don’t understand, or try to take me the long route home to run up the meter.
· Taxi drivers say my Chinese is good. Well, rather they say they can actually understand me, which from the sounds of it is pretty impressive to them.
· I can go on dates, speak nothing but Chinese for 5-8 hours, and end it with more than just a kiss good night. But in all seriousness being able to hold real a conversations and actually convey my personality is a pretty big deal I think.
How much longer do I have to go? Well, as many Old China Hands have said, you can study your whole life and never “finish” Chinese. For me, I need to be able to talk about business, and then I will be pretty happy with my Chinese. From there it’s developing secondary vocabulary and mastering all those little grammar points that I neglected early on. I don’t care to be able to write Chinese by hand, nor do I wish to be able to read Chinese fiction. Dating and making money in Chinese is enough for me.
Will I be coming back to the US? Nope. I will visit, but my goal for the next 3-5 years is to launch my carrier in China. I will see where I stand after that.
Goals for this blog? I have thought of all the things I could do with this blog, but honestly other than being an outlet for my thoughts I don’t have any goals for it. Maybe one goal would be to update it more frequently that once every year and half, but we will see.