Greatness Never Ceases

Greatness Never Ceases

Randi Dermo

Meet ... Randi Dermo

China Study Abroad Major: Languages and Cultures
Location: Beijing, China
Studying: Spending four weeks immersed in the Chinese culture while visiting majestic, historical sites and studying at the prestigious Institute of Chinese as Second Language of Peking University.

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I have to admit, as cliché as it may sound, I was most looking forward to visiting the Great Wall while in Beijing. Unfortunately, the day planned for visiting this national icon, turned out to be less than satisfactory, with thunderstorms rolling by about every hour or so.

Great Wall Although it was a lousy day for picture taking (the mist and smog smothering most of the natural beauty), nothing could stop the Great Wall from being great. Even though visibility was at a minimum, its not every day one gets the chance to stroll along one of the seven wonders of the new world. Not even barrels of black clouds and pouring rain could break the awe of the Great Wall.

Finding Our Niche

Just when I’ve finally found my comfort zone in Beijing, it’s time to say good-bye. I think it’s safe to speak for most of the group when I say that it wasn’t always easy. Unlike home, in China there were obstacles that each of us faced every day.

If not to overcome them, we all learned to at least deal with these little problems. Some were cultural differences; others were due to the language barrier. Nevertheless, these problems that we had never experienced before, suddenly existed on a day-to-day basis.

This last week, however, I’ve felt more at home in Beijing than ever — more relaxed. China may be foreign, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything to be frightened of. It may have taken us a good four weeks to become accustomed to our lives in Beijing, but it taught us to have patience.

We were able to scratch the surface of how Chinese society functions and to open our minds to a new way of life. We allowed the Chinese culture to seep into our lives, and swirl with our American ways, creating a cultural balance.

Culturally Inferior

Chinese culture is incredibly layered and rich. You could try to learn it your entire life, and still probably wouldn’t know all the why’s, who’s, and how’s. There is just so much to learn! Also, I feel like culture is still very present in Chinese daily life. In fact, if you ever visit China, it’s quite clear that they haven’t forgotten their history. Any given day, you can see men sporting Mao shirts, older couples at night dancing in parks, people of all ages practicing tai ji at the crack of dawn every morning …

Which forces me to beg the question, what is American culture?

It is true that, compared to China; we are such a young nation. However, I don’t think we will ever be as culturally developed as China. I just don’t think we have it in us; we’re simply too different a people to be united under one culture. I’ve always believed it to be a positive attribute that the U.S. is so diverse, and I still do. But part of me also finds it a little sad to think that we will probably never be as united in culture as a country like China.

Saying Farewell

The last week of classes, we, as Bloomsburg students, took our teachers out to lunch. We wanted to show the teachers how much we appreciated their help and patience throughout the past four weeks. I really did like both of my teachers’ attitudes toward the students and their friendly dispositions. I always felt relaxed and at ease in class — which is the best atmosphere for learning.

We went to a nice restaurant off campus, which our teachers chose and ate a hearty lunch. It was a really nice and intimate way to end our summer program in China. I am very happy with all that I’ve learned this summer, and all the people I had the pleasure of both meeting and befriending. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

As I write this last and final blog, I’m sitting on the plane, in the ninth hour of a 13-hour flight. Reflecting upon the past four weeks, I can’t help but wonder when the next time will be that I am on a flight headed for China.

China is much different that the United States, but should never be dismissed for those differences. I believe there is a lot that we, as Americans, can learn from China. There is no reason to be scared of its form government or its people. When you visit China, it becomes quite clear that there is no animosity directed toward Americans — only curiosity.

It is important for the young generation of Americans to start showing more interest in Chinese language and culture. Yes, it is true that there economy is growing stronger every day, but we should not be interested in China because we see them a threat.

Americans should be interested in China because we see them as a potential ally and partner. We should care about its language and culture because we are an educated country, and to be educated means one should have a strong grasp on international and cultural awareness.

It is in America’s best interest to strengthen relations with China and to be in alliance, rather than continuing to view the country as a competitor and threat.

    — Randi Dermo, languages and cultures major