Well, we’re back baby!
I recently returned to Beijing after spending a month in Vietnam! The most drastic change is probably the weather, as Vietnam was in the 80s and 90s every day, and Beijing has snow on the ground. I am so glad to be back in China, the cold weather is actually one of the reasons.
As an Alaska girl, I have no issues with the cold, dry winter Beijing has to offer. It’s weird hearing Chinese again, to be hearing a language I can actually speak and understand. I had such culture shock after arriving in Vietnam, because I can’t speak any Vietnamese and had never been to Vietnam before. I had honestly not even considered the culture shock I might have in Vietnam because I didn’t experience a large culture shock when I came to China in September (this being due to the fact that I had learned some Chinese and had to been to China before).
A couple days after my return to Beijing, we had orientation for the new students. Since I was enrolled here last semester, there wasn’t much for me to do except help the new students get used to life in China.
First orders of business after arrival is familiarizing new students with the campus and classroom buildings. New students will also need a Chinese SIM card or a Chinese phone. In order to set up a Chinese bank account, you need a Chinese phone number.
Even if you’re only here for a semester, I strongly suggest setting up a Chinese bank account. Once you have a bank account you can use apps such as Alipay or WeChat Pay, and use your phone to pay for everything. These apps will make your life in Beijing so extremely convenient that you won’t even want to go back to using cash or card.
This semester I am enrolled in the non-immersion track, because I need credits for my majors and have already experienced the immersion track. The social sciences track offers content courses taught in English. I am taking three classes, Sino-American Relations, Social Stratification and Inequality in China, and Chinese Media Studies. These classes are once a week for around three hours and all taught by Chinese professors. I am also enrolled in Chinese language classes this semester, and am taking level 402 classes with two other students. I have a Comprehensive Chinese class three times a week for two hours and a Spoken Chinese class twice a week for an hour and a half. If that wasn’t enough work for myself, I am also participating in an internship/volunteer experience at an app development company here in Beijing. It is a live-streaming app, and I’l be helping out with content, operations, and marketing! The commute to my internship is about an hour and a half by subway (one-way), and I work three days a week. I speak Chinese and English at work. My coworkers were really surprised I could speak Chinese because most interns cannot. One didn’t even think I was Chinese! He thought I was Japanese!
The campus is pretty empty right now because it is currently winter break for the students at Beida.
Their finals just ended this past week, and now they’re all returning home for the month, and will celebrate 春节（chunjie) also known as “Spring Festival” or “Chinese New Year” with their family. I think Chinese New Year is similar to Thanksgiving because food is a huge part of the event. It’s also a holiday centered around family and tradition, and everyone comes home to be with their relatives, much like Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. It’s not so much like Christmas because gifts are not a huge component of the holiday. You do receive or give 红包 (red packets) with money to relatives, but it’s nothing comparable to Christmas presents.
While I was gone, Beida’s famous Weiming Lake has frozen over and turned into an outdoor ice rink. My friend Philip, an international student from Singapore and I went out on the lake for some frozen fun. It’s only five kuai (less than a US dollar) to skate on the lake if you are a Beida students. They rent out skates right on campus too! I taught Philip how to ice skate, and we stumbled our way across the ice. There are quite a lot of large cracks on the lake’s surface, but it didn’t seem to ruin anyone’s fun. It was really nice to see so many students out on the lake because most of the time I feel like Beida students are constantly busy and stressed with school, and do not have much time to socialize or participate in fun activities for pleasure.
To end this first and very jam-packed weekend, the program had its first excursion.
We traveled to the Summer Palace, only a few stops away via subway! It’s my third time coming to the Summer Palace now, and I have to say, I much prefer going in the winter.
In the summer it is way too hot, and there are too many people. In the winter, as long as you bundle up, it is a very pleasurable experience!
Kunming Lake, the main body of water located at the Summer Palace has completely frozen over and locals and visitors alike can take a turn on the lake, renting small little sleds for 50 kuai (~7 US dollars).
There are no skates to rent for the lake, but the sleds are just as fun!
I’ve never been in China during the winter, but oh, it is so much fun!