你好, 我 是 康愛梅。
Hi, I’m Emily.
I’m about to embark on the craziest six-week journey of my life.
A year ago, I was 17 years old. Grad Bash had just finished, I finally found the perfect prom dress and I knew in the distant future I would be a freshman at the University of Florida. If you had told 17-year-old me that I would be five days away from a six-week trip in China, I would have called a medic to check you for head trauma.
But here I am.
This whole thing started in Preview last summer. I had dabbled (and by dabbled, I mean my school dropped me in a random language class for a year) in Spanish, French and Portuguese throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Having retained only your rudimentary greetings and the occasional piece of profanity, I knew I wanted to take a language. Having lived in Miami my whole life (and itching to spout Spanish at the next person fooled by my American exterior), I decided Spanish would be the most useful option. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this idea because every Spanish class was full. So was French. I didn’t even want to try Portuguese, that grammar is a beast that I would rather not attempt to tame. So I (logically, I told myself) went for what I saw as the second most common language: Mandarin Chinese.
The rest, as they say, is history. Sort of.
I didn’t plan on studying abroad until the summer post-sophomore or junior year. As a journalism major, I had my eye on the study abroad opportunities offered by the J-school. But I happened to land in the Chinese class taught by the sponsor of this particular study abroad trip. 張老師 (Zhang lǎo shī – lǎo shī means teacher) started showing us YouTube videos in class from past years and I was swept away in visions of dumplings, temples and pandas. Since the exchange rate between Chinese and American currency is heavily in our favor (one Chinese dollar is the equivalent of six American dollars) and I have been saving for a moment like this for a while, my mom and I managed to make this trip happen.
On May 7, 2014 at 6 pm, I’ll take a plane to Los Angeles. From there, I fly to Guangzhou, China and then I finally land in Chengdu, China. This is where I’ll spend six weeks of my summer, practicing my Chinese and exploring a country I never thought I’d see.
This is the first time I’ve left the country in my life – I had to get a passport specifically for this trip. Am I excited? Yes. Am I terrified? Absolutely. (I don’t even know how to say that in Chinese. I’m doomed).
I’ve jumped the first hurdle since, as of 6:15 p.m. today, I finally have my passport and visa. I sent my passport off about a month ago as part of my visa application, but due to complications with SWUFE (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics – the school in Chengdu where I’ll be studying and staying) the visa application was completed last week. The skinny FedEx envelope with my passport, visa, and acceptance letter finally made it to Miami this morning and I drove over and picked it up this evening because I couldn’t wait to check one more thing off the to-do list.
At least I can board a plane now.
Next blog post comes Wednesday, when I actually leave.
See you later,
* A quick explanation about my Chinese name (康愛梅): It’s pronounced Kāng ài méi (Kāng rhymes with clang without the l, ài as in the letter I, méi as in the month May) and was given to me by 張老師 (Zhang lǎo shī) during the first week of classes. Kāng (康) is essentially my last name and is derived from the first syllable of my English last name (Coc). It means peaceful and happy. My first name is ài méi (愛梅), derived phonetically from Emily, and means love (愛) plum (梅).