I think it's out of my system now. After a couple years of singing "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" and meaning it, I basically did it. I lived in a dorm, had a meal card, was even in a play (in a manner of speaking). I even went out and bought a dry erase board during the first week, but then E took the pens, and I got a cell phone, so the dry erase board was more nostalgia than anything else.
Before I came, I was never worried about the food, or foreign bathrooms, or getting sick; I was mostly worried about a) whether my roommate would be stinky/dirty, and b) my snoring. Well, X was not stinky/dirty, and he insisted that I didn't snore that loud. Really? Remind me someday to write a post about the lady in a downstairs apartment who went insane and left an insane note on my door because of my snoring, which she could hear through the floor.
Two things suprised me about my "return to college" experience. One was that I became friends with people, something I had resolved not to worry about on this, my fourth study aboad experience. In earlier experiences, I wasted lots of time with people I didn't really care about, just because I was too insecure to strike out on my own. So on the third day, when E said he wanted to go into the city with me, I thought about saying, naw, man, forget it, I want to just go get lost on my own. I had gone into the city the day before, and they had spent the whole time talking to each other instead of looking around and getting to know the place. In that first week, I had a hard time walking and speaking Chinese at the same time. Luckily, E was down for getting lost (and not a lot of talking), and we became friends after that.
The other thing that surprised me about this "return to college" experience was how quickly I gave up on trying to learn for the sake of learning. After the first week, once I realized how long the homework was taking me, I started doing it purely to finish. At midterm the teachers cut back on the homework, but they cut back on some of the drill-type exercises and kept the exercises that were pedagogically problematic, and I was too resentful to spend any more time on that crap. My chair was hard, the lighting was bad, people kept interrupting... I stopped reviewing vocab, and just concentrated on knowing what I needed to know to to get my homework done. Even on exams, there were times I didn't read the question, just scanned for the one key word that would eliminate three of the four multiple choices. Bad student! Bad!
Oh well, I'll be back in China in a few weeks. I will do ChinesePod.com and probably hire a tutor, maybe work out an exchange. My prof from grad school learned Mandarin and Cantonese using tutors, told me she hated classes. I think I was professionally against "hating classes" at the time, but at this point in my life I might permit myself to hate classes. At the time I was worried; what if the tutor was no good? She said, then you fire that tutor and get a new one. At the time, I think I was too insecure to hear that, but at this point in my life, I'm pretty sure I'm secure enough to fire someone who's not doing what I'm paying them for. I think those jazz guitar lessons are what sent me over the edge.
Ha ha, I took jazz guitar lessons.