China? Umbrellas? Goats? Foot Taxis? What is she talking about?

Why is she talking about it?

Where on this semi-green earth is she?!?!

Hannahinxiamen is a blog created for the purpose of detailing my thoughts and activities while in Xiamen, China. I am part of a UNC study abroad group enrolled at Xiamen University (or 厦门大学) from late August 2011 until mid December 2011, for the purpose of bettering my Mandarin abilities, for the purpose of completing my Asian Studies major, for the purpose of graduating college, for the purpose of finding a job, for the purpose of supporting habits such as writing, karaoke, trapeze, and making bad puns.

Too much information? I’m studying in China because I’ve taken Chinese for six years and want to FINALLY become fluent-ish!

The UNC Xiamen program, though conducted in the beautiful coastal city of Xiamen in the South of China, is the brainchild of a UNC teacher and has a course load tailored such that it follows UNC guidelines; students in attendance don’t have trouble transferring credits back to UNC, and our letter grades all count. Because I’ve already taken Chinese for a while, I’m not in class with the other UNC students; however, because the UNC program started 3 weeks before Xiamen University’s classes do, I have a private tutor until the school opens and I matriculate. My tutor, Eric, is a 28 year old graduate student in Linguistics and Comparative Literature. Because he took time off between undergraduate and graduate school to work as a vocal coach to television news anchors , I am gleaning the benefits of his vast language-correcting knowledge. Eric wants me to eventually speak so ‘melodiously’ and ‘flucently’ that I speak better Chinese than the Chinese themselves; the bar’s set high, but I’d rather there be expectations than no expectations.

The other students in the group and I take two culture classes outside of our language classes. Our first class is with Professor Yue, the encyclopedia-like sociology and anthropology maven responsible for founding UNC Xiamen, wherein we discuss the politics and culture of China as a developing country. Our second course, which after two weeks is yet to start, has learning about Xiamen itself as a focus and is taught by a teacher from Xiamen University. Professor Yue’s class is a 2 1/2 hour discussion course- we get to argue with the teacher, amongst ourselves, and think out loud. It’s really more like a giant brainstorming session in which we develop ways to conceptualize a region of the globe many of us, though we have language as a lens, know not how to consider. I’ve already experienced my view of China deepening, becoming more complex, and true to fashion, causing me to reconsider whether anything I know about China is true or if I or anyone else can even attempt to understand it (or at least aspects of it).

When not in class or studying, I have the opportunity to live with and experience Xiamen with just over a dozen other UNC students. It’s been strange considering that we know each other in a drastically different context than other students from UNC, and we keep forgetting that a shared educational HQ is why we’re together in the first place. I think I got extremely lucky with the distribution of students on my trip; everyone is adequately socially adept, adverse to dramatics, and relatively studious, so we’re good influences on each other. My roommate is Chinese in origin but a citizen of the United States, so it’s been really wonderful having her as a source of cultural and lingual information, as well as a kick-ass havoc-wreaking companion. An adjoining room to ours contains a power polyglot Columbian and analyzing buff duo. One of them, she and I have discovered, share very similar thought processes, and while I don’t think it’s been that life-changing for her to discover this, I’ve never met anyone who considers the world in a congruent(ish) fashion; it’s been kind of unsettling but also cool to realize I’m unique, but not THAT unique, and that other people can ‘get’ me even when I’m not making sense of myself.

As for Xiamen’s culture and the results of our wild (in)decisions? You’ll know as soon as I do.

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