Fabiana in China: I Should(n’t?) Be Here

Man down.

We lost one of our immersion students last week. He decided the program was not suitable for him and so, decided to change to the non-immersion track. To be fair, he had not been studying Chinese for long and had a difficult time with the language pledge.

We all did.

Like Dr. Sun had told us earlier, “Chinese language only gets harder.” After having experienced the “it only gets harder” part last Tuesday, I started to feel frustrated. Trust me, having to ask questions about why the verb clause is placed here instead of there, or about how exactly is it that you have to roll your tong to pronounce the “zong” instead of “cong,” WHILE speaking Chinese, gets you mentally and physically worn-out.


During our first class that Tuesday (口语课) we had gone over a “typical” dialogue that a non-immersion student (a.k.a. Student that can speak English) would have with an immersion one.

Ohh, did I let it sink in.

The dialogue contained vocabulary words such as “overwhelming” and “difficult,” and included expressions such as “don’t mention it, I know it’s insane,” or my personal favorite, “I want to quit.” (Sarcasm)

People who know me well know that I am most characterized for being a positive human being (really, sometimes I’m even considered to be too positive about things). Hate is a strong word, but there’s no other way to explain how I felt that day. I hated what were doing. I was learning words in Chinese I simply didn’t want to. Why would I want to know how to say I want to give up? It’s already hard as it is.

In between trying to recite the words and seeing my experience and feelings reflected in the dialogue itself, I started to feel upset. Was I trying to be with brainwashed? Should I be feeling defeated? I really don’t know why they made us do this, but to be fair I guess they were just trying to give us words and expressions we could use to express what we felt.

Ugh, the thing was, I really didn’t want to feel that way.

The class that followed that not-so-joyful Tuesday was my one-on-one. There, I broke down. Part of it was because I felt that the effort I was making was not being evidenced that day: she had asked me to talk about my family and the people I love the most, and after correcting 4 of the 7 words I used in my first sentence, I couldn’t keep going. I was tired. I missed home. She took me to another room and told me I was allowed to speak English with her, it felt good to be able to express my feelings and worries. It was eating me inside.

After that day I thought that everything was going to get better. And it did. It lasted the weekend.

On Wednesday however, I reached my all-time-low. I got to a point where, for the first time in life, I felt I wanted to quit something so badly. They had made changes to our program, and the class that I was in turned from being a 210 to a 310 Chinese level course. Boom, just like that.

There were Chinese characters I didn’t recognize and grammar structure I didn’t understand. So, I worked harder. To the extent that I had been literally doing so much Chinese homework that my hand was cramping into twisted claw. My head hurt. I just had so much information trying to get in at the same time, that I just couldn’t handle it.

I got sick, really sick. One of my roommates had gotten a cold for a while, and so I got infected really easily. I had my defenses down. I think it was a mixture of tiredness, pressure, and being sick that made me feel the way I did. I didn’t recognize myself.

Now, I write this after crying it all out.

The funny thing about all this “suffering” and school pressure I have, is that it has been put only by my persona. Grades don’t really matter because I just need to earn an equivalent of a C+ or better, and my parents and the people that I love, just want me to get a great experience out this time here. The point here is that I’ve been trying so hard to reach perfection that I’ve put myself in a situation and experience I don’t ever want to me in. I was being impatient with my learning process and stubborn at the same time.

In retrospect, I think that my biggest mistake was that I began to compare my Chinese level to others. And so, little by little, I started to feel small. I thought to myself, “What was I even doing there? I am the only sophomore in a group of juniors and seniors, and have had the least experience with the language amongst all. Would they notice it?”

After having all sort of emotions in the time spam of a day, I messaged my professor saying, “I am scared they’ll realize I shouldn’t be there with them.” Response messages filled up my screen, “What are you talking about? That’s nonsense! Everyone shows different learning styles: some are more talkative than others, but it doesn’t mean he/she is talking in the right way! Trust me, if you were not good enough, I would have definitely let you know!”

That was it. All I needed. She understood how much I wanted to improve and at the same time, prove myself there is no challenge big enough to knock me down. I have so much going on for me, and so much I want to give back.

I remembered a Ted Talk that I had seen last semester, and opened YouTube looking once more, for her advice.

Her words started to echo with me. More specifically in minute 15:40 of the clip when she talks about feeling that she “was not supposed to be there.”

“Fake it until you become it,” I thought to myself, “act like someone who has had a long experience with learning Chinese.”

Umm, sounds challenging, right?

I’ve been home for the past two days because of my not-so-well-timed sickness. The weekend has just started, so I’ll use this time to reflect and prepare myself to begin Monday with a new mentality.

Did I mention that I am convinced that the place where we study is a bunker?

Haha, I’ll let that to the next entry.

Let’s start to reinvent ourselves.

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