My first phrasebook in middle school was my dad’s Berliz from the 1980’s
I was a huge China fan back in middle school and even more so in high school. I found my Chinese name online and let everyone know they could call me by that name if they wanted to. I read massive amounts of books about China that I could find from the local library or bought cheap as second-hand. I surfed the Finnish version of eBay at night to find China related items or clothing. My friends and family all knew that I was really into China.
I took my first one week Summer course in Chinese in 2005, studying the Mandarin Chinese with other students of my parents’ age. We learned travel Chinese and practiced taiji at the school’s park in the afternoons. I roamed bookstores to find those few Chinese textbooks and study material that were available between 2005 and 2010.
After I had read a few books about the Empress Dowager Cixi, and even bought a movie about her, I changed to the history books describing the life in China between 1950’s and 1970’s. I read and bought many autobiographies and tried to imagine what daily life really was like during those though times. It almost became an obsession to find out as much as possible.
Finally in 2008 I started my university studies in Finland and my first semester of Chinese begun. I was a diligent student in love with the Chinese language who wrote characters into tiny boxed on paper over and over again. My book collection started getting bigger and bigger so I didn’t even have time to read all the books I bought.
The big change on my journey happened in Autumn 2009 when I made the decision to move to China. First three semesters I was just a normal exchange student having half day classes. It was a big jump from two hours a week to four hours per day, but I loved it. My Chinese learning destiny was sealed when I applied for the undergraduate program in 2011. Chinese officially transformed from a hobby to my major.
After moving to China, almost four years ago, I noticed a slow change in my fan behavior. First it was mesmerizing to be able to see everything first hand, jump to the reality from books and documents. Then slowly life in China started to become more ordinary. Get up, go to school, eat, meet friends, surf the net, do homework, all those things that are done no matter where you are.
Finally in the beginning of 2013 I moved in with my boyfriend and his parents. Suddenly Chinese culture wasn’t something out there behind my door, it was all around me all the time. I used to think it was funny when expats said they needed a break from China, but slowly I started to understand their reasons. When I get overwhelmed by all of this, and it still happens after four years, I just build a temporary bubble around me and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
I do still see my self as a China fan and I have this huge passion towards the culture and the language, but right now I feel like I need a break. I haven’t been home for two and a half years, I have only left China a few times briefly to go to Hong Kong. As I needed to come to China to appreciate Finland, now I need to leave China for almost four weeks in order to find my passion again.
I’m very eager to find out what kind of feeling I have when I get to Finland in January and how it feels like to come back to Guangzhou before the Chinese new year.
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