In one’s life, opportunities come and go. It is up to that person to take an opportunity and learn and experience all one can from it. This is an experience of a lifetime. On August 29th, 2012, I, along with two other classmates embarked on a life changing journey to Beijing, China. When we arrived in Beijing, we were welcomed by one of the China Studies Institute staff members. The shock began once we stepped outside of the airport. Knowing that it was late at night, we had assumed it would be a little chilly. To our surprise, the weather was very hot and humid. We arrived at Peking University at about 1:00am on the 31st (Beijing time. I am still adjusting to the time difference!). One of our fellow classmates was already there to greet us as one other classmate and I made our way with our luggage up the four flights of stairs to our room. Imagine it being eighty plus degrees as two (very strong) women drag their luggage up to our room. We were relieved to find once we arrived in our room that it was air conditioned. By the time we arrived in our room, we only had about seven hours until orientation began. As a way to help with the jet lag, we forced ourselves to sleep.
We woke up bright and early to meet the rest of the students in the program. The weather greeted us with high humidity and heat. Orientation began with a campus tour. The campus is huge, much bigger than Linfield. It had vendors where you could purchase food, an enormous student store, tons of buildings, and a lot of people on bikes. It was an adjustment for us all walking around on campus with all the smog. The air quality is a lot different than what you would expect in Oregon. The majority of our day consisted of: placement exams and getting to know the campus. When we were done with all necessary orientation sessions, my two roommates (Linfield classmates) and I walked around campus to purchase phones so that we can all communicate while in Beijing. It was a true test of our language skills and patience for not only us but for the Chinese nationals trying to assist us purchasing phones as they only spoke Chinese. After about thirty minutes we all left happy. I purchased a sim card to be used to communicate with others in Beijing and an international calling card so that I can talk with family back home.
We ended the night with a nice hot pot dinner. The restaurant was right off of campus on a strip that holds many restaurants, vendors, and shops. Even though it was across the street from campus, it was culture shock just crossing the street. You need to be aggressive when crossing the streets. You simply cross the street in oncoming traffic. The cars are driving slowly and you are crossing with about fifty other people. The cars stop for you but honk. There is a lot of honking, even while on campus. There are no sidewalks, so we all walk on the campus streets. The cars just go around you.
After our first official day in Beijing, it is clear that we are not in Kansas anymore! These next three months will be a test of our language skills, patience, and adjusting to the everyday lifestyles of the people in China. We will fully immerse ourselves into the culture and take this opportunity and create life- changing memories and experiences.