Sessions, Sessions, & More Sessions

Sessions, sessions, and more sessions.  In short, this was how my entire second day of PDO went.

After waking up (and waiting in a long line to use a dorm bathroom), everyone met up in the dorm lobby to start our day.  Isabel led us over to the iEARN office building, where we enjoyed a nice breakfast before starting our long day.  Just a little later, we went upstairs to our lecture room for the morning.

We were in for a long morning, jam packed with three back-to-back sessions to “get us ready” for our adventure in China.  First up was an hour and a half discussion on setting reachable goals.  This session, while a little boring at times, was very useful for preparing us for school in China.  I realized that some of my goals, such as “speak no English,” were unrealistic and would only hurt my progression.  A lot of people had this goal in mind, so we collectively set a more achievable version for ourselves – try to only speak English when translating to Chinese.  The next session up was a one hour presentation by a US State Department official.  As nsliy is run in part by the State Department, each year a representative is sent to PDO to congratulate us on our achievement and encourage us to continue to take scholarships and (hopefully for them) eventually work for the government.  While I have no real interest in becoming a diplomat, I appreciated this session because it showed us that the government noticed us and was honestly congratulating us.  Last up for the morning was Isabel’s presentation on becoming a flexible and open-minded traveler.  Since I’ve had a lot of experience traveling, this session was a little repetitive; the main theme was that it is important to remain open-minded because not everything will go our way.  Additionally, she gave us some tips to get along well with our host families and ways to get around language barriers. Thankfully, all of the sessions weren’t just lectures but had components of group discussions and activities.  Despite this, it was still a long morning.

We then enjoyed a nice, long lunch.  I feel like I have really been connecting with a bunch of people in our group.  (Surprisingly) there is no one who I don’t think that I will get along with!!  It has also been nice that throughout the sessions we have been changing seats so that we can meet and talk with different people.

And back to the sessions!  3 down, 3 more to go…  Learning to become a “model citizen ambassador” was our first afternoon sesh.  Basically, this was just a long session of rules that told us to behave like we were representing America.  While this was boring, it was actually necessary because most of the people in China will not have personal contact with other Americans aside from us.  Next up… more rules!  We learned how to keep ourselves safe overseas and discussed program rules.  Finally, we wrapped up with the best session of the day.  Kaleb, an alumni from Zhuhai last summer, gave a presentation on his experience last year and some personal tips on getting along with our host families.  He warned us that host families take a lot of pride in having an exchange student, but can smother us by wanting to be with us for the whole time.  Kaleb’s advice for coping with this was to spend time with them at dinners, but spend time with our nsliy friends regularly.

All of these sessions have helped me feel more ready for Zhuhai, but at the same time wore me out.  We finished up around 5pm and had free time until 10.  I went out to dinner with a bunch of nsliy kids, but decided to turn in early because I knew that tomorrow would be a long day.