When in China, Do as the Chinese Do

The past two weeks have truly been both an overwhelming and exciting adventure. Living in a foreign country, I felt as if I turned five years old again. As soon as I arrived at Beijing International Airport, I took in my surroundings with child-like curiosity, but the harsh reality of traveling to a different country hit when I struggled with my basic Chinese language skills to hail a taxi and check into my dorm. As soon as I got to Peking University, I climbed in bed and thought, “Wow, I am a big 19 year old baby trying to navigate my way through China.”

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The “Lake with No Name” at Peking University

At first, I felt terrified and insecure of the weeks ahead. However, now that I am entering the third week of the program, I have noticed my confidence grow exponentially. Every day, my interactions with other students and local residents involve a lot of charades and guessing games, but the small wins are really what fuels my confidence. For example, I learned how to bargain in marketplaces, ask and give people directions, and order food at restaurants. Although each conversation is very short and seemingly insignificant, it makes a world of a difference for me as I continue to embrace my vulnerability and use it as a strength.

Throughout the week, we spend most of the day learning new vocabulary words and sentence structures in class and over the weekends, we have the opportunity to apply what we learn outside of class. Our first excursion was to the Great Wall of China and although the hike up elicited blood, sweat, and tears, the view was simply unforgettable. Growing up, I learned about the Great Wall and marveled at the pictures in my history textbook; however, in person, it seemed so unreal and I reached a newfound appreciation and respect for the rich culture and history of China.

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At The Great Wall of China with Ye Laoshi

In class, we learned the phrase, “???? ”, which means “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” My goal is to live in China, not as a tourist, but as a temporary resident, and correct the preconceived notions that I had before coming to Beijing with a more educated and insightful perspective. Every single day in Beijing is full of adventures and hard-earned lessons; I can’t wait for what tomorrow and the next day will bring.

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