Kaua‘i High school sophomore Briana Bailey received a $1,000 scholarship for academic excellence from the American Field Service Intercultural Program to go towards her study trip to China.
Bailey will travel to China this summer to Harbin City, near Russia, for a whole school year.
Bailey and her family have been preparing for her trip to China for years, but it wasn’t till last week that she was finally notified of where she will stay, and who her host family will be.
“We’ve been planning it for a long time,” she said. “At first I looked at other countries like Qatar, Spain and India. I researched that a lot, and I decided on China.”
Bailey took up lessons in Mandarin Chinese, and started to learn more about the Chinese culture and customs.
“I’m into studying different languages and cultures, and I’ll get it easier there,” she said. “I’ll learn (Chinese) better there, seeing the real thing and being immersed in the culture.”
But Bailey isn’t really nervous about going just yet.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet. I don’t think I should have any problems. I’ve traveled a lot, but just not for that long,” she said.
She’s traveled to the Mainland, Korea and Canada several times. Her biggest obstacle will be enduring the cold, Eastern winter.
“It’ll be interesting,” she said. “First I thought I’d be going to Beijing, but I’ll be going to Harbin City, which is right by Russia, and they have six-month-long winters, so I’m going to be really cold. It gets below zero degrees there.”
Bailey has only seen snow twice in her life, but she said she’s prepared.
“We bought me some heavy winter coats,” she said.
She also has a strategy to make sure she doesn’t get homesick.
“When my sister went to Japan, she was homesick for a while, but she adapted eventually,” she said. “They tell me not to keep in touch with everyone that often because I’ll miss them too much and that will make me homesick.”
In addition to building her Chinese-speaking skills, she hopes to learn a new musical instrument there. She already plays the alto saxophone.
“I’m planning on learning how to play the erhu,” she said. “It’s a string instrument you rest on your knee. It’s like a little violin, but shaped differently. My mom wants me to give her lessons.”
Bailey is one of 120 students nationwide given the opportunity to participate in this exchange program. More than 1,400 students were nominated for the scholarship by their principals, counselors or teachers.
Each year, the AFS awards more than $1.5 million in scholarships and financial aid to make it possible for students to study abroad.
For more information, visit afs.org.
• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or firstname.lastname@example.org.