I was looking at the Russian translation of “China in 10 Words” (10 слов про Китай) as suggested by @AnnaStrelkovskaya. That turned my mind to my daughter’s experience as an exchange student in Xian, China, as well as the reaction of her college roommate as an exchange student in London, England, for a semester.
My only daughter has always been the most adventurous of my kids, more so than any of her brothers. Her small college was trying to start up an exchange program with an institute in Xian, and my daughter was the first to give it a try. On her own initiative, without any help or advice from parents, she got her passport, found a way to Chicago, twice, to get her visa, and made all the other arrangements. When the time came she put herself on a plane to a country on the other side of the world where she knew not a soul nor a word of the language. She’s much gutsier than I am!
Xian is more remote than Shanghai or Beijing. My daughter described a small expat community, but she was the only westerner in any of her classes, perhaps in the entire school. But she made friends and immersed herself in the culture. She visited friends’ homes and families and shared their meals. She unhesitatingly consumed chickens’ feet along with things she couldn’t recognize. It was a great experience that she greatly enjoyed and will remember and cherish her whole life.
Shortly after she returned to her US college, one of the girls she shared an apartment with left on her own exchange semester in London, England. Unlike my daughter’s experience, the roommate spoke the language and had been exposed to the culture – closely related to her own – through countless television shows and movies.
And what was her experience and reaction? She called or emailed my daughter to say, “This is so hard! How did you ever do this?!”