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Viewpoint: Come explore China with me

Olivia AlbertsOlivia Alberts will be a senior at Rosemount High School this fall. Departing for Xi’an, China, on June 29, she plans to write periodic columns about her experiences during the six-week visit.

China, with a gross domestic product of more than $11 million, is home to the second largest economy in the world. Despite the fact that China and the United States don't see eye to eye in political theology, our economic interests are so deeply entwined that we both seek to be on good terms with one another. With talk of U.S.-Chinese tariffs already in action, any upcoming political action may determine the nature of Chinese-American relations for the foreseeable future.

This exciting time is just one of the innumerable reasons I'm so fortunate to be among the 50 high school students chosen by the Department of State to live in Xi'an, China, for six weeks this summer through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth.

The program sends students all over the world to develop students who can, according to the NSLI-Y mission statement, "advance international dialogue and compete effectively in the global economy."

In addition to the much anticipated cultural exchange, I will be there primarily to increase my proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. Even though I've taken Chinese since I was in seventh grade and was recently elected president of the Rosemount High School National Chinese Honors Society, I can't help but foresee that I'll be in for quite a shock when I arrive at the Beijing International Airport and am completely surrounded by the language for the first time.

The first time being immersed in a foreign language is a monumental moment for any language learner, so that is definitely one of the first things I'm looking forward to about my journey.

Another thing I'm looking forward to is living with my host family, or 寄宿家庭 (Jìsù jiātíng). The first day meeting my host family is going to be another big step in my time overseas, and I can't wait for it!

It's difficult not to get caught up in all the excitement I'll be constantly surrounded by in about a week, but in the meantime, I have other matters at hand: packing!

Because of cultural differences, amenities will vary slightly from the U.S. to China. For example, public bathrooms in China do not have toilet paper; instead, it is expected that you bring your own. Though this concept is terrifying at first, Chinese people survive just fine, and they bear this stuff every day.

This next step in my life is an exciting one, and I can't wait to take Independent Town Pages readers with me to experience Xi'an!