Take 5: How Disney’s Moana Inspired This Traveler to Go to China
It’s been a minute, but we’re back with a new Take 5! In case you’re out of the loop, Take 5 is a Greenheart Travel interview series where we ask alumni 5 questions about their time abroad. This week, the focus is on Ashleigh Anderson, who tutored English in a homestay in China.
1. What inspired you to go to China?
This is a long, convoluted answer, so bear with me. I’d been learning Mandarin in school for a little over a year. I’d always been told by my teacher that I could go to China and use my Chinese, but I’m a really anxious person, so I never in a million years thought that would be possible even though it sounded so cool. That year, the Disney movie Moana came out and I saw it in theatres. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know the story is about a young girl stuck on her tribe’s island, but she dreams of sailing the open sea. She sings about how she’ll defy the odds and sail into the unknown because “it calls me”. I felt so inexplicably inspired by this movie that it completely changed me as a person! I started studying my Chinese even harder and was looked into study abroad programs every day! Every time my dream seemed impossible (paperwork or financial problems) I’d listen to the Moana soundtrack to remind myself why I was doing it at all. This sounds so dumb, but it’s the truth!
2. What surprised you about the people you met in China?
I was most surprised that so many people wanted to take pictures with me! I heard this could happen, but for some reason, I thought I would be the exception. Nope. I got stopped in the street to take pictures with people’s kids and even had a line form one time! I must be in hundreds of random Chinese people’s pictures!
3. What is something you learned about yourself?
I learned that I genuinely can do anything. I was such a self-conscious and anxious person before my trip. I live in a very small town in America, but being plopped in the capital of China gave me the sink or swim push I needed to become a confident adult! I had never ridden a subway in America, but had to learn how to do it in the matter of an afternoon without being able to read much of the maps. I still can’t believe I managed that! Now, every time I think I can’t do something, I just think “uuuuhhhh girl you went to China BY YOURSELF I THINK YOU CAN DO THIS!”
4. Favorite word in Mandarin?
I absolutely love the word 忍！It’s pronounced rěn. It basically translates to forbearance, fortitude, or endurance. The top half of the character is 刀 dāo or knife and the bottom half is 心 xīn or heart. The knife is pushing down on the heart, but instead of breaking, the heart holds up the knife and remains intact. This really symbolized my trip and it holds such meaning to me!
I also learned a phrase in Mandarin from my host brother that I always find myself thinking, even now. It’s 累死了lèisǐle which means you’re exhausted. This is funny to me because 累 means tired and 死了 means dead. It’s just so dramatic! I even started saying it towards the end. I still hear my host brother’s cute dramatic sigh saying this now!
5. What was the best piece of advice you received before going abroad?
TAKE. LOTS. OF. PICTURES. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Make sure you take pictures of EVERYTHING no matter how small it might seem! You can’t go back in time and you’ll regret it if you don’t!