My first month in Beijing was full of experiences, adventures, and friendships (oh and class!). The real first adventure was trying to get to IKEA by subway. My friends and I are not familiar with subways or Beijing. All we had was a map, an address (in Chinese), and a subway card. We were determined to get there. Two subway transfers and a twenty minute walk later we arrived at IKEA. This was the only place we knew we could go in order to make our room feel more like home. Our first mistake: going to IKEA on the weekend. It was extremely hard to walk around, let alone with a cart. People would wait hours just to park. After our long couple hours of shopping we treated ourselves to ice cream. The ice cream was only 1RMB, which is less than $0.16.
IKEA was our first real adventure off of campus but it did not stop there. I got a few people together and we took the subway (the most efficient and cheapest way to travel) to the Olympic Stadium. We were able to walk around the village for free and see the water cube, the bird’s nest, and the torch. There was a concrete wall with the engraved names and teams that were awarded medals in the 2008 Olympics.
The program that hosts our study abroad trip schedules a group trip every other weekend. Our first trip was mountain climbing. When you are in a new country you just need to let your guard down and try new things so I signed up! Little did I know, mountain climbing meant walking up 1,299 stairs. I lost track of how many times I needed to take a break. We were all put into small teams and the goal was to get the entire team to the top of the mountain and take a picture. About a quarter of the way up, I was doubting my ability to make it, but 45 minutes later my team and I made it to the top of the mountain. It felt like such an accomplishment.
There are so many things to do while in Beijing but these are just a few of my experiences for the first month. Every once in a while you just need to feel like you are back at home and there are many places here that give you that feeling. Want pizza? Walk to a nearby pizza place! There are fun hangouts for college students that offer some western food. At these places, you will find other study abroad students. It is a great way to make more friends and make connections with people from all around the world. The opportunities here in Beijing are countless, the friendships you make are life-long, and the experiences are life-changing.