It was Thursday morning when I started folding my belongings into the suitcases, and getting ready for what I like to conceive of as my next journey through life. Journey? Journey… this word conveys a sense of departure and arrival, which also elicits two distinct emotions that I can perceive but cannot articulate. Consciously, I could feel my face twitching with a smile since I could not help but be excited about what was up ahead. Still, occasionally, when I thought of being away from my family, I felt that I appeared as some sort of emotionless robot. “Are you ready?” one sister from Harpswell inquired as I packed. I took a few more seconds to acknowledge how I was feeling and then strengthen my determination before responding, “Yes, I’m ready.”
About two days later I arrived in Georgia, and the new chapter began. It started with meeting each of the six kindhearted people who commit to devoting their time and energy to helping me while I am in the U.S.. While I refer to them as mentors, they are more like friends and family.
We did a lot of activities together over the first few weeks, including hanging out, dining, shopping, and they also assisted me with moving into my campus dorm. While traveling with them, I had the opportunity to take in all the scenery that passed by my eyes – the scenery that I had previously only seen in movies, but that was not where my attention was focused. I often ruminate, and the surroundings served only as a soothing backdrop as I scratched my head over how I would ever repay their kindness.
Syracuse University was next. One of my friends told me that Syracuse is referred to as the “city of snow” in Chinese. Following my first winter, I couldn’t agree more. The school is big and I can observe racial diversity while riding the bus through the cold. People speak English, and it is perfectly acceptable to do so with a different accent and without the exact intonation I used to hear from the guest speaker in my old English class. The students have many spaces available to them to get out of the cold – they eat at the dining hall, which they can access with their student ID, a place that looks more like a buffet to me. Each student in the architecture program also has a desk to work at around the clock on their architectural design, including myself. I chose a desk at random and wrote my name on it.
Upon completion of my first project, it is at this desk I stared down at the finished result and realized that it had a story and sensibility of its own, but I wondered whether I would ever be able to describe it. It is crucial for students to be able to explain the paradigm of thoughts and feelings when presenting their work and it is a tradition of this discipline that professors and students sit and discuss the work using only these drawings and structures as assistance. I took my approach of collecting as much vocabulary and quotations as I could with the objective to comprehend the concepts underlying the use of certain techniques and methods. It was at that point that I recognized my classmates are truly exceptional. My appreciation for their work has grown, and now whenever we need to give a presentation, I find myself eagerly anticipating what they will say.
These interactions give us many chances to exchange our cultural experiences. It reawakens my curiosity about other cultures while simultaneously reconnecting me to my own. It helped me realize that I also have a unique identity and I feel fortunate that I was raised in a nation with tradition and a lengthy beautiful history.
Personally, I would summarize my journey thus far in this way: through my exchanges with people. Although there may still be difficulties that students who are studying abroad may encounter, we are fortunate to be a part of the SHE-CAN program, with the SHE-CAN team, SHE-CAN sisters, and mentor teams who have helped us overcome the majority of our challenges. We are all working as a team to achieve the goal we established together. I am looking forward to seeing more of the story I will create with everyone here and how I will put meaning to it in my memories.