Last month, Jake found out that his younger sister Gabi will be coming on the China Exchange next year. For his final journal entry, he wrote her a letter of advice:
Let me tell you, you are in for not only an incredible experience in terms of learning a new culture and its history, but also an amazing time filled with beautiful sights and interesting interactions with the people. In the process, you have an important obligation. This obligation is not only to continue the legacy that I have left for you as a Boyd in the Gao Xin district, but also to repair the damages I may have caused in the wake of my trip. One of the most valuable things in this trip is being on your own for such a long period of time. As a result, you learn things about yourself and make mistakes that you can draw from in the future. Growing up is filled with making mistakes, and this trip only accelerates this process because there are fewer people to stop you from making bad decisions. However, the consequences often lead you to learn from them instead. For example, I will never try to steal a bathrobe again in my life.
One tip that I learned coming into the trip and would like to reiterate to you is to truly embrace your family as much as possible. In most cases, they applied to host you because they truly wanted to have a guest in their house. Therefore, they are there to help you, so take their help and establish connections with them. I’ve learned to do this by setting aside time at dinner every night. While I could lock myself away in my room, I opt to spend time discussing with my host family at dinner. I can recall one time, for example, when my host mom adamantly explained her view of communism, and why it fit China, which opened my eyes to a new perspective of the Chinese government. Not only that, but you should balance being polite and accepting their generosity. One time when this was important for me was when my host mother took me to buy shoes. Despite my having the money and offering to pay for it, she insisted on it being her responsibility, so I bit my tongue and allowed her to buy them.
Lastly, try to stick to Chinese culture as often as possible. What I mean by this is to try not to crave American candy, food, sports, etc. Doing something like this will only make you miss America more, and if you try to pursue it, it will disappoint you. For example, one day Henry and I were particularly hungry and couldn’t pass up Burger King, thinking it would be a nice taste of home. The burger itself was revolting and only made us long for a juicy homemade burger, or a tasty Cowboy burger from Eagle’s. On the contrary, try to enjoy Chinese culture whenever you can. In Sichuan, we were heading to a fast food chicken restaurant when the cab driver recommended a nearby restaurant. He exclaimed in Chinese that the restaurant was much better than the unhealthy fast food. Feeling adventurous and curious, we agreed to have him take us there. At the restaurant, the cab driver came in and ordered for us, leading to us eat some of the best food in China so far. Sometimes you have to go with the flow and see where China takes you.
Overall, you are in China for four months. Although it seems like a long time, it will fly by. Therefore, you need to milk every opportunity you can, and leave without regrets. Good luck!