I'm very new here and this is my first post in this community. I'm a Chinese junior studying in an American university. Out of academic requirements, I'm currently studying in Abu Dhabi and about to come back to NY next semester. As you know, Chinese is my mother language and English is learned for my college life in US or international atmosphere. When I was in China, I am not extremely popular but I can say I have bunch of friends and we play very well with each other. According to my friends and teacher, I'm always humorous and nice. My academic performance is good too.
However, after I went into university, I found it's kind of hard for me to behave as well as what I did in my home country -- my native language environment. Fortunately, I know exactly what's wrong with me -- my English is not proficient at all. When I am in class, I can just understand half of what professor said(and sometimes it's even less) so that I don't dare to talk and put up with questions. Since I don't get most of professor' word, I have to pay much more efforts than others to catch up with them. (Well, the good thing is that my professor understand me and see my effort put into assignment and project so I was given a good grade in the end.) When I was in cafeteria, I am not always able to recognize what is the name of each dish thus I can just point it and say "please get me this". When I meet my classmates and friends, I just say Hi and make some easy and brief talk. Unless they want to sit and talk with me, I would never join them actively. Sometimes when I saw my classmate/friend sit along, I encourage myself to sit with him/her. But once when more people join us, I feel very anxious and panic and just want to leave early but I cannot do this since others haven't finished their dish. Only when I run into a Chinese and we naturally chat in Chinese, I can feel easy. However, when we two go out with native speaker, I feel very embarrassed since my Chinese friend is very good at English and can even talk as a native speaker. Then I even don't dare to talk to my Chinese friend because I feel ashamed and sense of inferiority. Due to the policy of our residential office, we have to change our roommate each academic year, up to now, I've had 3 different roommates. All of them are wonderful and I don't care at all about some shortcomings of them. I'm always willing to help and sometimes even sacrifice my own time and benefit. All of them said I am a very easy-going and warm-hearted person. However, other than my Pakistani roommate who don't have many friends, the other of my roommates don't like to invite me to their parties and hanging out. The most important reason is that they don't think I'm a social person because I don't always to talk to them. But the truth that I don't always talk is because I don't dare to talk instead of disliking to talk. For the same reason, I hardly participate social activities or any activities with any possibilities of chatting.
I think the biggest problem now is listening. For talking, though I am not able to talk like a native speaker, I can at least talk kind of fluently and express myself clearly. Sometimes my professors and classmates say my accent is very good and just like an American, but some other time, I cannot say a word in right pronunciation so that others can't understand me. Generally speaking, my talking and expressing ability is okay. However, there's a big problem with my listening. I know one of the reasons is my vocabulary is limited. I always don't know what is the word others use during our conversation. And when others talk very fast, I cannot keep pace with him/her but can just catch some keywords and try my best to understand. Personally speaking, the accent is not big deal for me -- no offense, there a lot of Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, Columbian etc. who kind of have strong accent around me, but I don't have any problem understanding their accent, the only problem is if I can understand their word.
I've thought for thousand times to pause my college life and take a gap year to enhance my language ability. But I just doubt is it really worthy? Because from others' perspective, I do all good in my academic area and there's no need for me pause my college life. I even sometimes have an imagination that what if I was born to live in English-speaking country so that I can spend more time to develop my interested skills.(I'm not say any bad of Chinese and Chinese culture and actually I'm very proud of being a Chinese)
I have been in such status for a long time and really hope to get some advice from you guys. I'd really appreciate.