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The changes that this experience has introduced to my life have finally started to catch up to me, but not in super obvious ways. I still look the same, still enjoy the comforts of AC/wifi/the occasional McDonalds, still get emotional when I listen to a really good song, still have the same core passions and values, etc. Though, when I was trying to rest and take a beloved nap earlier today, I instead lay there restlessly questioning whether I wanted to go into medicine. Yikes, existential crises in foreign countries are not the most fun things to endure. For the love of cheese, why now??

For the past 4 weeks, I’ve been living in another family’s home in China, teaching conversational English and singing to independent middle schoolers who actually look forward to having class with us, becoming very close with a team consisting of some of the coolest and most genuinely kind people I’ve met in my life so far, eating foods I would probably never touch back home, developing loving relationships with my students and host sisters through songs and shared funny moments, continuously throwing myself in situations that have no clear plans or pre-determined outcomes, and loving it. Today, we attended a class on Chinese painting, and it was probably my favorite activity with the students yet. The teacher started out with a brief history lesson about how this type of traditional art was distinguished as “national” as opposed to Western styles of art, then transitioned to the techniques of ink and wash painting, and finally gave us the opportunity to try it out ourselves.

A lot of us are at a point in our lives where we don’t have endless chances to explore new things. This was very new to me — drawing and painting have never been hobbies I have been interested in or skilled at. I felt like a middle schooler again, trying something for the first time with lightheartedness and no pressure at all to be any good at it. After this past semester of struggling through pre-med classes that I did not truly enjoy, this class was incredibly refreshing in comparison. I love science, but not particularly when it’s wrapped in a package of restrictive curricula, mandatory classes, extensive examinations, and a pressure to conform to a narrow standard of “success”. Today reminded me to make time to experience the joy and adventure of learning for fun, whether that comes in the form of languages, cooking, art, instruments, or academia. Naturally, I started to doubt whether the schooling and career of medicine will give me the freedom to do that. Luckily, I don’t have to figure my entire life out right now. It can be a bit terrifying, but I’m grateful that this program has pushed me to question the path I have already planned for myself.