Kazuaki Suhama

Kazuaki Suhama in China

Kazuaki Suhama 

China: Past and Present 

Field of Study: Global History and Asian Studies

Expected Graduation: Winter 2020

An international student from Japan and Singapore, Kazuaki will be going to Guangzhou and Hong Kong in the program China: Past and Present for summer 2019. He is looking forward to learn about the history and culture of China.


Preparations for the Journey

As I am writing this down, I am about a week away from traveling to my very first study abroad experience in my life: China. Various thoughts and feelings filled in my mind and heart. Born in Japan and raised in Singapore by a Chinese father and Japanese mother, I have been exposed to different stories and perspectives about China, both in the private and public sphere. I am excited but at the same time nervous on this upcoming study abroad program. I have traveled across the globe by myself several times, but this would be the first time I will be stepping into a place where I do not know anyone personally except for my program directors and peers. One challenge that stood ahead of me was knowing how to get around in a foreign land. Some questions I had in mind were: What would I be seeing there? How should I communicate with the locals?

Being the meticulous person, I made sure I was fully prepared for the study abroad program. I spent hours watching videos about China, and particularly, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, the cities I will be staying. I used to learn Mandarin back in middle school, but I have forgotten most of it, so I am taking this break time to catch up so I can at least converse at a basic level. I also tried to learn some Cantonese although I was told that there would be no problems getting around Hong Kong with just English and because the language is interesting.

My items for the study abroad program. The backpack and travel adapter are recently bought; I needed a larger bag to put in my laptop and tablet.

I just finished a class on Chinese history, and I asked the instructor (Thank you Dylan!), who had personal experiences with China, on advice and tips while traveling to those cities. He said, “just go with the flow like Daoism (interesting because I will be learning Chinese Philosophy in the program), always keep an open mind and you’ll be fine.” And I strongly agree since I will be exposed to ideas and views that can be different from my home culture. I think getting to know something new might be daunting or shocking, but it will definitely be a valuable learning encounter. I realized it is totally fine to feel nervous as it is part of the experience. As long as you try your best not to hold any preconceived notions, be open-minded, and most importantly, look forward to the exploration, you will get the most out of it.
I have my passport and plane tickets ready, and all that is left is to pack my stuff into the suitcase. I am eager to see what the study abroad program offers as the journey unfolds. The next time I am writing will be at Guangzhou. Until then, 下次见 (see you later)!

City skyline of Guangzhou. (Image credit: Getty Images).