FAMU student shares her studying abroad experience in China

I lost Wednesday. Well, not completely. Essentially, I was chasing the sun for 15 hours and when I finally caught it, the day was more than half over.

I’m sitting in room 2205 at the Ibis Hotel near North Point Ferry Station in downtown Hong Kong. Forty-eight hours ago I was lying in a different bed over 10,000 miles away restless and anxious. In my head I was repeatedly looking through my two suitcases and laptop bag item by item to be sure I would not forget anything.

This semester I am an exchange student at Shantou University in the city of Shantou, Guangdong province, China. From March 1 to July 5, I will be enrolled in four classes at the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication at STU and one immersion Mandarin class. For the rest of the summer, I will be working as an intern. When I first started taking Mandarin classes more than a year ago at Florida State University, I never thought I would actually study abroad in China.

I took International Baccalaureate (IB) Spanish my senior year in high school. My parents always encouraged me to “make time to study abroad” while in college. My brother and sister, who are FAMU graduates, both said that studying abroad was the one thing missing from their college experience, even though both had traveled out of the country for spring break.

I was eager to study abroad, but an opportunity the summer after my freshman year was curtailed due to a stipulation in my scholarship contract. I entered my third year at FAMU not discouraged, but certain that I would study abroad this year. I even went so far as to apply for a program at FSU that would take me to Panama for a semester until a journalism professor found out I was learning Mandarin.

The study abroad process has not been a cakewalk; in fact, I feel I have just stopped short of walking on hot coals in order to use my scholarship funds to pay for this excursion.

Along the way, however, I have learned to be a taskmaster extraordinaire. I ask the right questions of administration and any hesitation I once had at pestering university officials has vanished. “Be the squeaky wheel, “my mom always said and it has almost become my mantra. The squeaky wheel is the only one that catches the attention of the driver.

Being ‘squeaky’ has paid off and although there are still some wrinkles to iron out stateside, I am confident that this will not derail the adventure I have ahead of me.

When I asked my twitter followers whether packing or unpacking was worse, they were split. Both tasks have steered my mind in completely different directions. Packing has forced me to value the ‘wear ability’ and functionality of every item in my suitcase. No matter how far in advance I began to pack, I felt rushed, unsure and forgetful. When I began to unpack, I realized the long period of time I will stay in this unfamiliar location.

The purpose of this column (optimistically bi-monthly) is to share the observations of a young African-American woman, Rattler, journalist, student, procrastinator, explorer and dreamer for six months in China.