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    Posted March 17, 2014 by
    Frankfurt, Germany
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    China: We Are Citizens, NOT Tourists


    Hi, my name is Sophia and I am a current senior in high school living overseas in Germany. I spent 2012-2013 (my junior year of high school) living in the most bustling city...Beijing, China! With an organization called School Year Abroad (SYA), the 63 of us (mostly juniors, some seniors and two post graduates) embarked on an adventure that changed our lives.


    I won't sugar coat the truth. For me, it was tough in the beginning to become accustomed to a new family, home and essentially, a new life. It's different for every one. However, the more I was open to change, and the more friends I made definitely turned this anxiety into the BEST time of my life.


    Each student lived with a host family, and I am lucky to say that my host family was beyond what I expected "family life" to be like. I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they've shared, the smiles they always managed to put on my face, and the home they provided away from home (Oh and the greatest and freshest meals). They've become family.


    Before SYA, I could not say a single word in Chinese, except for "Ni Hao". But soon, that word turned into phrases, questions and comments, all in Mandarin. With SYA, we had approximately 10 hours of Chinese a week, taught by the most AMAZING Chinese teachers. In addition, we earned high school credit for math, history and English.


    As a group, we also traveled great distances to Gansu, Shanxi and Yunnan Province. Spinning prayer wheels, watching the sun come up behind the ancient cities and mountains, interacting with monks and locals, living with minority families, attending local Chinese high schools, and so much more added to our fascination.


    With a constant-changing world, it is important for students, whether it be in high school or college, to be globally literate. More students should consider this as an opportunity to grow individually and to realize that you're not a tourist anymore. You're a citizen, not just of that country, but of the world.


    Doing this as a high schooler? YOU stand out.


    But most of all, you meet as strangers, and leave as life long friends.

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