First off, what is NSLI-Y? NSLI-Y stands for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. It is a merit-based scholarship run by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for high school students ages 15-18 to study less commonly taught languages abroad. They offer programs in 8 languages: Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Turkish. Although one does not need prior language experience to apply to any of these programs, I have been taking Mandarin for all of my years in high school and plan to take the AP level next year, which is why I applied to the summer 6-week Chinese scholarship. This year, there are several summer Chinese programs including ones in Xi'an and Chengdu. The program I was accepted to is being held in Xiamen at Xiamen University, however, we are also planning on visiting Shanghai and Beijing during our time in China.
After a two-day pre-departure orientation filled with awkward icebreaker activities and a few (sorta boring) presentations on the rules and logistics of the program, all 28 of us students were off to our first destination: Shanghai (上海). The flight was longgg (around 14 hours) and unfortunately not very restful for me. I ended up watching 4 movies, starting and finishing a book, and managing to sleep for a little over an hour or so. Most of our group was seated next to each other, but I was seated next to a mother and her son who was probably around 11 or 12. She didn't speak any English but we talked a bit in Chinese about where our group was going and why we were traveling to China. She also talked to me about her and her son's trip to New York and how much she loved it. I had a little trouble understanding her because I'm nowhere near fluent, but it felt nice to know that at least some of the words I was saying were right and that I was still able to converse with her. After the plane landed she said, "你很漂亮,“ meaning ,"you are very beautiful" and asked me to take a selfie with her which was very sweet :).
Once we arrived, we were greeted at the airport by our 2 tour guides who will be with us for the rest of our stay in Shanghai. We drove through the beautiful city on a bus for about 40 minutes before we reached our hotel. We are staying at the Regal International East Asia hotel, which I am so happy to see is committed to sustainability and has even received awards for their eco-friendly efforts. After checking in to our rooms, we had a couple of hours to rest and unpack before meeting in the lobby again for dinner. Our dinner spot was a local restaurant called Yu Xiang Qing ( 渝香情). We all got to try several different delicious dishes: spicy chicken, lettuce, mushroom soup, and more. After our meal, we got to visit a nearby convenience store to get some snacks for the next couple of days.
Today was obviously a travel heavy day, so it was pretty laidback and we got a lot of time to rest, but the pace is supposed to pick up tomorrow. We have our first cultural excursion and plan on visiting the Jade Buddha Temple, Waitan, and the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower!
Here are a few pictures I took throughout the day: