Year of the Young Person blog post
Ailsa wrote the following blog post for the Scottish Government as part of the Year of Young People 2018 ahead of the First Minister's visit to China.
On 31st August 2017 I boarded a plane to start my year abroad to study Chinese at a university in China. Having only just left high school, it was fair to say that I was more than a little bit terrified. The next ten months would be the most valuable and rewarding months of my life.
Our classes in China are incredibly intense and very different from classes at high school in Scotland. I didn’t know that my teacher spoke English until Christmas time as every class is taught completely in Chinese. We are given a huge amount of homework everyday along with an infinite number of characters to memorise. Although the work is demanding, living in China enables me to put my learning in context and make use of the new vocabulary that I have learned. Additionally, being surrounded by the language that I am learning in every aspect of my life allows me to see my progress everyday as my understanding of Chinese gradually improves.
This experience has not only been one of the most intense learning experiences academically but also, the lessons I have learned from moving to the other side of the world at eighteen are invaluable. I said goodbye to my family and closest friends knowing that I would not be coming back to see them for ten months. Although I am sure they would never like to admit it, living so far away from home means that ultimately, my parents can only advise me on what to do in a situation, they can’t step in and sort it for me. From finding Chinese phone contracts to opening up Chinese bank accounts, from travelling South East Asia independently to navigating Chinese hospitals, I have done everything by myself.
A few things may have seemed scary at the time, but being pushed to deal with things by myself has given me a great deal of perspective and I have learned how to handle things in a mature and level headed way.
This experience has made me grow up faster than I would have at this age and helped me to become a more mature and independent person with a unique international perspective of the world. Being immersed in the culture and language has made me fall in love with learning Chinese which will only inspire me even further when I continue my studies of Chinese at Oxford in October.
This article first appeared on the Year of Young People website.