“I’m going to China.” I have been repeating this mantra in my mind since I decided to go on this trip back in November. Frankly, I don’t even know how I ended up here. I was simply walking out of my Chinese 101 class when my teacher said, “You should go to China.” My response, “Okay.” And now I’m here attending Pre-Departure Orientations, applying for a Visa, and having my passport updated. What did I get myself into? I’ve been out of the country before, but only to Europe where everyone knew English, but now I’m going to Asia and only know a few sentences in Chinese? This is definitely going to be an adventure.
My first semester of college was riddled with homesickness. I am from Chicago, IL and had never left my family for more than a week before coming to college, so it was quite the culture shock coming from a big northern city to a smaller southern town. You must be asking yourself, “Erin, why in the world would you agree to travel to a completely different culture, language, time-zone, and way of life if you were homesick in the same time-zone, language, different culture, and way of life?” Well, my dear amigo, I decided that I need to push the limits and grow as a person mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I looked at my life and loved the way I grew to be an independent, confident, and strong woman in a span of nine months during my freshman year of college so this shouldn’t be too difficult… right?
As the time between my initial decision to attend the UA in China: Language and Culture program and the approaching departure date, my anxiety is starting to build again, but this time there is more excitement than fear. I will be traveling to a nation with such a rich culture and profound history, I can’t help but be excited. It was a little crazy applying for a Visa, figuring out finances, and applying for classes, but I had the greatest asset on my side; mom. My mother, Tami Behland, is one heck of a woman who is, conveniently, a travel manager. She is fierce and sassy, exactly who I want to be when I’m older, hence why when she encouraged me to explore the world, I accepted. My family has been very supportive in my travelling endeavor, although my anxiety infested mind had other plans. “What if you fall and break your leg?”, “what if you accidentally eat wheat and your food allergy acts up?”, “what if you have end up living the plot of Taken featuring Liam Neeson?”. I had a simple solution to combat this constant suffocating fear- be completely ignorant to the fact I would be going to China.
That’s right, I completely ignored and tried to forget that I was going to China. I focused on hanging out with my friends and family, I cooked myself some new recipes, and when bombarded with the expected questions and advice from those who heard of my summer journey, I pretended, in my mind, that this was some big practical joke that I would be traveling to the Far East. My plan was working perfectly until the night before my departure. I was quite the sight to be seen, a nineteen-year-old crying her eyes out while clinging onto her stuffed tiger (aptly named Tigie) and crawling into her parents bed. But I knew there was no going back now. I was about to take a giant leap into the unknown, I just prayed nothing would go wrong.