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丹麦交流学生 Jonathan

丹麦学生Jonathan,今年8月来到上海参加AFS国际学生交流项目,他住在上海的接待家庭,在上海田园中学学习。

My exchange to China

My name is Jonathan Findlay Allan, and I am currently an exchange student in China. I come from Denmark, a rather small country with a just as small population 5.5 million. The city I live in is nothing extraordinary either with a measly 15000 inhabitants. Because my sister had been an exchange student in New Zealand some years before me, I was already aware of the opportunity. I found this choice very alluring, the opportunity to explore a different part of the world, learn a language, meet new people and ultimately testing myself. Thus, I decided to travel to China for mainly 3 three reasons. Firstly I am very inquisitive and enthusiastic about history, and as I do not know very much about Chinese history this seemed like a good opportunity. The second reason is the language. Mandarin-Chinese is very useful, besides that it is also especially alluring to western people, due to it is fundamentally different writing system. Besides Chinese literature is rich, being able to experience it in the native language would be a highly enjoyable experience, (although this will require quite a bit of effort). The third reason is the distinctly different cultures of Europe and Asia. I have always been intrigued by the “east”, due to it is perceived image as a mysterious, exotic and of course different land. Naturally I wanted to see and explore this land with my own eyes.

Thus far, I have had a lot of ups and downs in China. You are put in very different circumstances, which naturally puts things in perspective, in addition to the fact you have lots of time to think. As a result you learn a lot you never thought about it. The challenges you face truly help you grow, as you a repeatedly forced to rethink your ways and how to handle tough situations. Ultimately I am very happy that I took the decision to go on an exchange. I believe I have learned things and will continue learn many new things that would never occurred to me in Denmark. Which will without a doubt to a large extent shape the person I am and will be in future. As for now I have only been here for around 3 months and I found it baffling how much I have experienced and learned, and I am immensely excited for what will happen the next 7 months and what impact it will have on me.

 

Family Life

Meeting my host family was obviously a very exciting event. All the exchange students, our contact persons, and a dozen other people had arrived at the the AFS headquarters in Shanghai the 21th of august talking about something, when it was suddenly announced we would meet our host families soon. I had been immensely excited about for it a few days, not to mention the previous and much longer anticipation, although significantly milder, I had had for months. Realizing that this event was minutes away was nerve-wracking. Barely seconds after the announcement had been made, barely before I had just begun to mentally prepare myself, the first host family stepped in; my host-family. I immediately went to greet them, my host-mother and host-brother trying my best to hide how flustered I was. We took some photos, and we went into their car, where I met my host-uncle. One the drive home I learned all their names, which they needed to repeat at least 3 times each, along a dozen new Chinese words, by asking my host-brother a thousand times, “How do you say this and that in Chinese?”. We came “home”, I was greeted with Waipo, shown my room, and we went to eat, starting to realize this would be my home for this next 10 months.

My birthday was celebrated the 5th of September instead of the 8th, as it had to be a weekend due to the rigorous work schedule in China. Honestly, I was quite surprised as to how it turned out, I thought it was going to be my host family, Mama, Waipo, my host-brother and maybe his friend. But suddenly lots of family members came ringing on the door, and soon the whole room was filled with 10 people. I was then told to prepare for going out as we were going to dine at a restaurant. We went to the restaurant, were the staff lead us to a private room with a large round table, where we sat about 16 people. Rows and rows of food were bought in, to my despair I was full after a couple of minutes, but was repeatedly urged to try every dish, despite me repeating every time “Wo Chi Bao Le”. We talked for a couple of hours, and of course took loads of photos. Overall, it was a very good day, and I felt warmly welcomed by the family.

School Life

First of all the school in China is rough, like really rough compared to my standards. I had certain expectations, but they were actually rather mild to what other people thought. I come from a country, where I wake up 7:30, (7:55 when I am a bad boy), school starts 8:05 and ends 13:25 3 out 5 days and 15:10 2 out of 5 days. I go home about 13:35-15:20, where I procrastinate my homework until 21:00. Realizing that I had to get up 6:00, and get home about 18:00 was a surprise. A shock I still have not recovered from. Nonetheless I go on.

Regarding the school itself. Well… It is a little uneventful, I am in a normal Chinese class, where only Chinese speaking, except for English lessons where some English is spoken. So Mostly I just sit an study Chinese, which can be interesting sometimes, however also a little monotonous at other times. Socializing can be a little hard, obviously due to the language barrier, although some of my classmates are rather proficient at English. Nonetheless the breaks a very short, except for lunch, and the students work very hard, some even do homework during lunchtime. I do however participate in some running classes every Friday, and I managed to win a silver medal at the School’s sports meeting.

Learning the native language of a foreign country is very interesting when you are in that country. As you get to experiment a lot with the language in many different interesting situations. Learning Chinese is highly enjoyable, you get to explore a whole new language, which in itself is interesting. Besides that there are major rewards, being able to speak with other people from that foreign country, thereby gaining a better insight into their culture and lives. Also Chinese is interesting in the sense it is profoundly different from Danish and English, which is of course due to the characters. Obviously there is also the satisfaction in seeing your own progress. Being able to read something with ease, which you understood anything of merely a month ago, and of course being able to speak it with Chinese people, particularly those who cannot speak English in the slightest!

Although there are of course also some difficulties. Initially it was mostly the sounds. It was horrible in the beginning. Many of the sounds just do not exist in Danish or English, so you have you to actively learn how to position your tongue in order to pronounce the sound correctly. It is a very steep learning curve, but after a few weeks it loses most of its challenge. Instead, it is the characters that are the real challenge (In my opinion). The characters are really fun and interesting to learn in the beginning because it is different from western languages. However truth be told after a while it can become rather mechanic and dull, due to the extreme repetition it requires to be able to write, recognize, remember the pronunciation and of course the meaning. At one point, I wished that they would switch out the characters with pinyin. 

 

 

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