Post-Program Reflection

A month has passed since I returned from my summer abroad in Beijing, and I’d like to share a few reflections on my time there.

Overall, I don’t regret participating in the program.  I experienced Chinese culture firsthand, I enjoyed spending time with my language professors, and of course, I will miss the food.  It is essential to spend time in a foreign country if you intend to master its language with some degree of proficiency.  I am now taking Fourth Year Chinese as a junior, and I feel completely competent in my language abilities.  I might have to return to basics for using Chinese in certain situations (like giving detailed directions, or in overly formal academic writing), but I now have the ability to discuss China’s complex economic, social, and political issues using Chinese.

Admittedly, the transition to study-abroad life was difficult.  The course load was heavy, there were few opportunities for independent exploration in and around the city, and my classmates rarely coordinated plans.  However, I made friends with Chinese students, waiters, shop-owners, and workers all around campus – I still communicate with some of them on WeChat (a Chinese messaging app used in place of Facebook, which is banned by the government) and through these connections, I’m able to casually and continually maintain my language skills, particularly the rapidly-growing collection of Chinese internet slang.

I feel very fortunate to have received the support of so many of my family and friends, and for the opportunity to live in China (even during the unbearably hot summer!).  I will never forget my experiences at Peking University, and I feel I can speak Chinese with much greater confidence than before.

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

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One of the gates flanking Tiananmen Square


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Me with my teacher, Li laoshi

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After two weeks in Beijing, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the center of Beijing, and considered by China’s ancient dynasties to be the center of the world, as well as the point of convergence between the earthly and celestial realms.  The Square and Forbidden City were packed with people.  I learned a lot about the symbolism of Chinese animals: The dragon and phoenix represent the emperor and empress of China respectively, and while the crane represents longevity of human life, the turtle represents longevity of the life of the nation.

Great Wall

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The Great Wall was incredible!  We visited a section called Mutianyu, which turned out to be a very steep climb to the top.  Luckily, there was an alpine slide to take us down to the base!  As we hiked along the wall, we could see the town from which we started in the valley below and mile after mile of the Great Wall winding along the mountain peaks.  It was definitely a relief to experience such clear skies and beautiful vistas, after living through some grey days in the Beijing metropolis.  As I realized how much manpower it must have taken to build, maintain, and defend the Wall, I could definitely feel an aura of antiquity and solemnity – The Great Wall was truly a sight to behold.

PKU Global Village

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Peking University has been gracious enough to host the NDiB (Notre Dame in Beijing) students in its international student dorm complex, known as PKU Global Village.  In my opinion, the accommodations were very nice (even better than some Notre Dame dorms) and it was very convenient to walk from the dorms to our classroom building.  I took the first picture from a pedestrian overpass that connects Global Village to the main campus.  And, as you can see, the skies are sometimes blue!  The Global Village includes a few convenience stores, some restaurants, and even an underground gym.

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Fengshui fountain

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Busy work-station


Journey to the East

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Leaving Denver International Airport

This is my first trip to Beijing, China, and Asia, not to mention the farthest distance I’ve ever traveled from home, taking a 14-hour flight from Denver, CO, and connecting in San Francisco, before landing at Beijing International Airport. Thankfully, the two people sitting in my row had some interesting stories to share!

One was a Chinese man from Chengdu, and the other was an American tech/business professional who coincidentally works with Indiana University in Bloomington.  He has been giving presentations in China on how to use different kinds of technology to automate the English learning process for Chinese students and assist them in applying to American universities.

This sparked an intriguing conversation on Chinese approaches to education (including the infamous “Tiger Mom” phenomenon) and Chinese culture in general.  China has proven to be a remarkable example of economic growth in the past few7.3.16 iPhone 039 decades.  As an Economics and Chinese major considering future research topics, since landing in Beijing, I’ve been considering the cultural differences between China and the West, as well as such pressing challenges as pollution, public safety, and educational and political reform, and how China and the West compare.  This will be a recurring topic throughout the blog.

Once I landed in Beijing, I met one of my new teachers, Li laoshi, at the airport.  We took a cab to Peking University via Beijing’s 4th Ring Road (The city has 6, and is currently building a 7th).

The first thing that struck me about Beijing was its sheer size, the highways lined with sprawling arrays of apartment complexes and business parks.  Traffic was at times unbearable, as no driver seemed to have the slightest concept of traffic lanes, indicators, or right of way for pedestrians and cyclists (Our cabbie drove over the dividing line for the majority of the trip, as he manoeuvred through the congested streets).  The pollution was definitely noticeable as we made our way to PKU, but over the following days, the skies were unusually clear.  As it had been explained to me, the rain and wind patterns have a big

Customs at Beijing International Airport (Waiguoren Only)

Customs at Beijing International Airport             (So Many Waiguoren)

effect on pollution levels, and since it had been raining often, we were able to enjoy unseasonably low pollution.


At the moment, I seem to be having trouble uploading pictures of the roads and buildings I saw on my to campus.  Look out for future edits!



Let’s Begin!

Hi, friends! Welcome to my Beijing blog!

First of all, my sincerest apologies to everyone for the delay – to call this first post overdue would be an understatement.  I’ve been keeping myself so busy studying and absorbing the local culture that I’ve unfortunately neglected the most important aspects of my study abroad experience – careful examination and reflection.  I’d like to use this blog as a medium to sort through and recount my most significant experiences in Beijing, and I hope you’ll learn some interesting things as you read!

Before I begin, I’d like to thank my family, friends, teachers, and advisers who have all provided me with invaluable advice and support.  I’d especially like to thank Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures and the Liu Institute for their generous financial support.

Thank you all for making this experience possible, and hopefully, I can express with some lucidity what I have encountered during my time in Beijing.