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Viewpoint: Excited to be part of the future

Olivia Alberts will be a senior at Rosemount High School this fall. She is writing periodic columns during her six weeks in Xi’an, China. 

大家好!Welcome to the final installment of my accounts from China.

As my trip in Xi'an is coming to a close, I've had lots of time to reflect on my growth as both a language learner and a person. I'm so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to not only grow myself, but connect with people halfway across the world.

One of the primary purposes of my and my classmates' travel to Xi'an is to do "people to people diplomacy." Underrated in terms of diplomacy, yes, but incredibly impactful in the process of globalization. Politicians can talk to politicians, but their cultural reach can only go so far. Since I've been here, the common human thread has become so much clearer.

Recently, as I was eating dinner with my host dad, he brings up the topic of politics. During orientation, the first thing we learn is to try to steer the conversation away from politics as often as you can; it's such a polarizing subject, and we're here to build bridges, not create divisions.

However, my host dad suddenly brings up how excited he is to see how politics changes with the coming generation; "You students are the future," he said, referring to me and his daughter, going on to discuss the implications of an increasingly technological world.

Corny? Maybe. But this is a phrase I hear my own parents, my teachers, my mentors say all the time. To hear it coming from someone with a completely different background from me made it all the more important. Experiences like these make finding the common thread in each person so much more special.

Technical challenge

In addition to interpersonal growth, I've also seen growth in my language skills. As any language learner knows, there will be certain times in your journey more monumental than others. I had one of those moments last Sunday.

On that fateful day, I made the grave mistake of spilling water on my MacBook keyboard. After taking all immediate precautions to possibly save my laptop (and pacing across my host family's living room a couple of times), I worked up the courage to type in the number for the Chinese Apple helpline. Luckily for me, Apple catered to its global audience by providing options to speak a service person in languages other than Mandarin, and so I was, much to my relief, connected to an English-speaking Apple employee.

However, after speaking to the very helpful employee for a bit, it became clear that if I wanted to fix my problem I would need to schedule an appointment with a Chinese Apple Store. Without further ado I was forwarded to a Mandarin-speaking Apple employee, speaking what felt like a mile a minute. Going into this call, I knew that I did not know every technical word pertaining to my situation. However, I did know my address and cities around me, and I did know dates and times, so I felt little concern. When making an appointment, what else could you possibly need?

Apparently quite a bit. But after a few minutes of explaining my situation (stressing the "student" (生) part of "exchange student" (寄宿生)), the call went on without a hitch! It's regular moments like these that make the struggle of language learning so much more rewarding.

With my return in less than a week, I am left feeling very bittersweet. There's so much I'm going to miss in Xi'an—incredible food, rich history, and all the friends I've made here, just to name a few.

My next adventure, as soon as I get back, will be the ever-daunting college admissions process. Of course, I have so many incredible people waiting for me when I get home, and I absolutely can't wait for our happy reunion!