Before leaving China, I had the really cool experience of being a dress model for a Chinese photographer friend! Although it was a really long and tiring day due to modeling 40 different dresses, it was super fun to spend time with all our new friends! They did our makeup and hair, and they even made us a homemade dinner and bought us a cake!
Besides that, we’ve been doing a lot of “lasts”. I had my last big dinner with my host family’s family (all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins). They took me to the nicest hotel in the city, got a huge private room, ordered the best food, and gave me so many toasts. It was a really good time. We also had our last Changzhou AFS orientation at my school, where we all talked about our experiences in China and watched a recap video. That was also my last time seeing my Chinese teacher, Li Laoshi! Everything now is a “last”. The last time here, the last time eating this, the last time seeing them, etc. Along with all the “lasts”, there was also all the packing. I sent a package home with some of my winter stuff, so I was actually able to fit most of my stuff into my suitcases, but I still threw some things away, and still fear paying overweight baggage fees. I also had to pack the gifts I’ve been given, and the gifts I’m bringing for people back home.
After we leave Changzhou, we have a departure orientation with all of AFS East China for half a day in Shanghai. We’ll stay in Shanghai one night, and fly out the next morning with our flight chaperone from AFS USA. I’m glad we have the opportunity to see everyone again, be together before we leave, and say our goodbyes. I am definately going to cry my eyes out. My host family is even coming to the airport in Shanghai to see me off!
My last day in Changzhou, I said goodbye to all of my friends in the city, and my host family took me out to a seafood buffet for dinner. Driving by my school and all the other familiar places in the city made me tear up just thinking of all the memories I’m leaving behind.
Today I’m leaving Changzhou, and tomorrow I’m leaving China. I can’t believe the day has finally come for me to say goodbye to the place I’ve come to think of as a second home, and to my newfound family, classmates, and friends. When I first came to China, 10 months seemed so long, but they’ve flown by. Although I’m happy to come home, I’m sad my experience in China is now over. During my time here I’ve learned so much, not only learning the Chinese language, and reaching my goal of passing the HSK level 5, but also coming to deeply understand the culture I’ve been surrounded by for the past 10 months. My year in China hasn’t always been smooth, but I’ve learned to overcome even the hardest of times, and I feel successful in that. I’ve grown to be more independent, open-minded, and confident, better at solving problems, and better at looking at the world around me. I’ve made not only Chinese friends, but friends from all over the world, who’s friendships I will cherish forever. I’m leaving with hundreds of memories, dozens of new relationships, and no regrets. I’ll miss my life here, along with dumplings, hot pot, milk tea, big buildings lit up in lights, peaceful gardens and temples, bargaining in markets, and all the daily adventures. Looking back on my year, I feel very satisfied, like I got everything I could out of this opportunity. My year has been full of laughs, excitement, growth, learning, and of course fun! Big thanks to NSLI-Y and AFS for making this opportunity possible, and to everyone who’s been a part of my journey. China, I’m sure I’ll be back again soon! 下次再见, 中国！