Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bangu (板鼓) - End of Fellowship Thoughts and Transitions

(Writer's Note: The following blog is the final part in a series of entries that will summarize my life as a student at the Inter-University Program at Tsinghua University (IUP).)

After submitting my final essays to my tutorial teachers, I felt dizzy. Shouldn't one feel free after finishing school? Shouldn't one feel at ease? Instead, I felt even more confused and lost than when I had begun studying Chinese.
Maybe my mind is trying to reflect on everything that has happened since my first day at IUP. Maybe my mind is trying to prepare to leave an environment to which it had accustomed, to leave dear teachers and friends. I gained thousands of words and lost seven pounds (in all the wrong places), made friends throughout China and lost a few memories.

In this series, I've talked of bikes, my apartment and my thoughts on education at IUP. For future Light Fellows, if you wish to save time, just read the following few grains of advice:
1. Live off campus.
2. Ride a bike.
3. Read out loud.

Besides this, I can offer no constructive advice. I can offer one deconstructive piece of advice however -

Be independent.

We are all part of the social media generation - we live in a world where are friends and family are a few clicks away. Networking has a good reputation. I'm not saying any of this is bad - friends will miss you and mothers will worry if you don't reply back to their emails and wall posts. Networking also fails if you don't respond. I'm just saying isolate yourself from the western world. There are plenty of temptations in Wudaokou to allow you to revert to your comforts - English this, English that - but if you

came to China with the intention of mastering Chinese, a year's period of seclusion will not impede your English speaking ability. Complete cultural immersion happens only when you delete AIM and download QQ, when you refuse to speak English or mother tongue and when you dare to travel independently. Find Chinese friends on your own by attending random events, meeting random people and following them to other random events. Ignore the classmates that want to complain to you in English, or passively listen to them. Travel independently as often as possible or with no more than three people. After a year of struggling to abide by this one rule, my Chinese has improved faster, my appreciation of Chinese culture and politics has deepened and my perspective of my own cultural identity has changed greatly.

Though my studies in China have concluded as a Richard U. Light Fellow, I will continue to learn and work in China. With the support of the Yale Global Health Initiative, I will work at a Beijing-based nonprofit organization called Compassion for Migrant Children (CMC). I will organize health awareness workshops and investigate the relations between community health centers and migrant workers. These workshops will be designed to help improve children's hygiene habits and correct their parents' misconceptions about various health-related topics, including breastfeeding, STDs and the role of antibiotics. I will continue blogging my experiences working with migrant children and interacting with health officials in Beijing.

I am forever in Dr. Richard Light's debt. While I'll be working this summer to understand public health in China, the opportunities that build up this summer project would not have even appeared before my eyes had I not left Yale and lived in China. I sincerely thank you.

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1 Comment:

Kelly McLaughlin said...

You've been an outstanding Light Fellow, Ricky. =)

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