Life in America after Interning Abroad


I felt pretty strange as I boarded the first plane of our three-legged journey back home. I wasn’t immediately upset, but I felt a little empty inside. Chengdu had carved a piece of my heart out without my knowledge, and now I was leaving it behind…possibly for good. I felt like this for the entire flight, holding Baik, my new ukulele, in my arms. At least I had a few things to remind me of the wonderful people I met.

tea mug Blake holding a tea mug

One of my favorite souvenirs in my bag was the cutest little tea cup. When not in use, it can be flipped to serve as a decorative cat that sits in its lid. The ears and tail are in perfect balance so it stands perfectly level when filled with tea.


My really good friend Tommy gave me Baik (pronounced “beck”). He was teaching me how to play the ukulele on the weekends, and he decided it would be the perfect going-away present for me. It means a lot to me because I was never allowed to play instruments as a kid, and now I have trouble learning music. However, I practice almost every day and Tommy and I have Skype lessons once a week. Tommy is from Korea and used to instruct children on how to play ukulele while living in Saipan.


I figured that making a scrapbook on my experiences would help me remember how much of a great time I had while abroad. After all, I have a terrible memory and the little moments like spending time with the elderly or the children at the orphanage are things I never want to forget.


My roommate suggested that I finish my project before Scholar’s Day, a day where JCC students and faculty can present their experiences, research, and works. With my scrapbook, I could show off my trip as well as my theories on the importance of learning Chinese to properly instruct English to a native Chinese speaker. I whipped it together in a week, using some of my little treasures such as the origami hearts the children at the schools gave me.

Blake winning third place at Scholars Day

I then won third place at Scholar’s Day, which was a total shock to me!

cosplay buddies cosplay buddies

Getting back into normal life, I attended UB Con at the University at Buffalo. My friend and I are cosplay partners, so we had a great time catching up and eating American sushi. Oh, how I missed sushi.

Fun fact: I was actually planning on going to UB until I interned abroad. Because of financial issues, I cannot swing getting a bachelor’s degree without taking out a heap of loans. Student debt is a serious issue that I feel needs to be addressed. Let’s just say if I go to UB, I won’t be able to go back to China right away to master in Mandarin Chinese and that Sichuan University in Chengdu will cost less to attend for four years than it would to attend UB for only one.

I’m going back with my family’s support. Most likely I will study there for four years and get a degree in Mandarin Chinese. I feel like my purpose in life is helping people, and I would love to volunteer at the orphanage while in school if I can swing it. Maybe I’ll meet the next interns from JCC while I’m living in the Sichuan Province. Who knows? All I can say is:

This internship changed my life. JCC changed my life.


About the author

Blake Bailey

Hey, I'm Blake, and I'm concentrating on political science with my Liberal Arts & Sciences: Social Science degree. This semester, I'll be teaching English in Chengdu, China, as part of an internship program. After graduating with my associate's degree, I hope to transfer to UB and get my bachelor's degree so I can pursue a career of interpreting. I'm currently learning Mandarin Chinese and American sign language, but I hope to learn Cantonese in the future! I recently resigned as Student Senate's Vice President for this internship and I participate in Anime Club and work as a student ambassador.