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Coming to China, everyone that knew I was coming on this trip continuously kept asking if I was excited. I would always give them two answers, one was “Yes I am!” And then immediately I would follow up and say ,“But I am extremely nervous.” I haven’t really been out of the country that much because of basketball, so all my venturing would be about 30 minutes after my last tournament game before it was time to head home. I didn’t mind that much because when I was stepping out of my comfort zone my closest friends were pretty much in the same car as me or following my car. However, because of this I didn’t really know how to venture out and try new things, especially in a completely different culture and I was nervous.

On the way to Yunnan, I got stuck in New York for a day because of weather and miscommunication between the flight attendants and the server, but it all worked out. I ended up meeting up with Max, another ACE member from Duke, while I was in Hong Kong.  He got stuck there and we ended up having the same flights from there on. While we were waiting for our flights, Max was explaining how he was great at trying new things and saying he couldn’t wait to get there. Immediately I thought that he was going to be my way of not backing out, and exploring while I was in China. So we both agreed that whatever he eats I would have to do the same.

At the time, it sounded like a great idea and I was thrilled to take on this new challenge, until one day when he ate a FISH EYE! Of course I could not back out of this challenge. I was a little dramatic before the eye got into my mouth but once it was there, surprisingly, the fish eye was not bad at all. Will I do this again? Probably not, but it was great to cross this off of my bucket list. Ever since eating the fish eye I haven’t really had too much of a hard time trying new things at all. But if I do, someone always says “I’m pretty sure Max ate it”, so then I have to eat whatever it is.

“Even though I am still hesitant to try and talk to locals here in Chinese, I am so grateful for them welcoming me here in their culture and encouraging me to embrace this moment.”

Another part of the trip I was very nervous about was the language barrier. I have taken Chinese for some time, but I am nowhere near fluent so I did not know how this was going to be. When I first arrived in China, the amount of nervousness to say even “Ni Hao” to someone was off the scale. I did not want to accidentally use the wrong dialect and offend someone, or even say something completely different than what I was trying to say.

My first actual conversation once I landed in my final destination was with the kitchen staff. I started off basic and they were very surprised I spoke Mandarin. After our conversation I was so happy inside that I had actually tried this, and that it went smoothly. After that one conversation my comfort level grew a little higher and after each person I have a conversation with it rises even higher.

I think my favorite moment so far is when we were at the gym in town and I had to ask if we were able to use a specific room. Someone later came over and asked about where I was from, and if I played basketball. Even though I am still hesitant to try and talk to locals here in Chinese, I am so grateful for them welcoming me here in their culture and encouraging me to embrace this moment.

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