Beijing Baby!

Me at Weiming Lake
Standing at Weiming Lake on Peking University’s campus

Sometimes I still have to pinch myself. I can’t believe I am actually living in Beijing.

I arrived in Beijing about two weeks ago. After a short flight from PDX to San Francisco, it was about thirteen hours to get to Beijing. On the flight, I sat by an incredibly friendly Chinese man who I conversed with in Chinese. I’ve only been studying Chinese for two years and overcoming my language insecurities was something that I really hoped I could do through this experience. I was surprised at how easily I slipped into conversational Chinese with a complete stranger, and even though my language skills are nowhere near perfect, I discovered that it doesn’t really matter. A desire to learn and a leap of faith, those things are universal, and I’ve learned that people appreciate you trying, even if you’re not a pro yet!

Weiming Lake on Peking University's campus
Weiming Lake on Peking University’s campus
Boya Pagoda on Peking University's campus
Boya Pagoda on Peking University’s campus
Street on Peking U's campus
Street on campus

The first week came and went in a blink. After taking a written and oral placement exam, we were put into classes. I am currently in 311, with four other students from University of Denver. The program I’ve enrolled in with the China Studies Institute (CSI) at Peking University feels very familiar to Linfield in that the class sizes are small, each student gets personalized attention, and you are able build strong relationships inside and outside the classroom. Peking University, commonly called “Bei Da” (a shortened form of Beijing Daxue, the Chinese name 北京大学) is often referred to as “the Harvard of the East”. The university itself is massive, with around 40,000 students on its campus, however, our program is isolated in that only students enrolled in CSI attend our classes. Despite this, we still get plenty of time to interact with Chinese students since we live right on campus.

The program here is rigorous, but I think I’ve finally gotten used to my schedule. Monday through Thursday I have one-on-one sessions with two Chinese graduate students from 9:20-10:50 am, and after lunch I have a comprehensive class and oral/speaking class from 1:00-4:20pm. On Fridays we have biweekly tests or language practicums.

A picture of our language pledge
The immersion track language pledge

Oh, did I mention? All of us in the language immersion program have also pledged to speak only Chinese from Monday 12am to Friday at 12:30 pm. Call us crazy? 我同意 (I agree). On the upside, I definitely see the progress! My language skills, especially my listening comprehension skills, have improved immensely!

 

CSI students on our off campus tour
CSI students on our off campus tour

It hasn’t been all classroom time though, I’ve been able to explore the city every weekend. My favorite place to go is Wudaokou (五道口). This Beijing neighborhood is very popular among foreigners, also called “waiguoren” (外国人). There are tons of clubs, bars, and restaurants that cater towards, or are owned by foreigners. My friends and I are a fan of a restaurant called Pyro Pizza. It’s a pizza parlor in the heart of the neighborhood that is almost always packed. One of the owners, Josh, is from Las Vegas. He  came to China with the simple goal of traveling around a bit, maybe seeing the sites and eating some authentic Chinese food, and he loved it so much that he’s been in Beijing ever since.

Exploring Beijing
Exploring Beijing

Besides this neighborhood, we’ve explored beautiful, cultural sites here with our program. The China Studies Institute plans excursions for us every weekend, and this weekend we are going to the Great Wall! We have already been to the Summer Palace (颐和园)and the Temple of Heaven (天坛公园). At the Temple of Heaven, we had an assignment to interview retired people exercising at the park.

At the Temple of Heaven
At the Temple of Heaven

 

At the Temple of Heaven
At the Temple of Heaven

Many of them were Beijing natives, and regularly come to the Temple of Heaven to practice tai chi, or use the equipment. After the Temple of Heaven, we went to Hong Qiao Market (红桥市场), which is a bartering market. Bartering could definitely qualify as a national sport here, and we were able to sharpen our skills with the shopkeepers for a couple hours.

At the Summer Palace with Sarah
Sarah and I at the Summer Palace
At the Summer Palace
CSI students at the Summer Palace
Friends at the Summer Palace
Sarah, Wil, Thomas, Benji and I at the Summer Palace!

It has been go, go, go, since I touched down in Beijing, and yet I feel as though my writing cannot properly convey my experience. Every day is a new experience. I’ve made the best of friends here with students from all over the country, and I can’t wait to see what other amazing opportunities are in store for me.

Friends at the Temple of Heaven
Will, Sarah and I at the Temple of Heaven
Friends eating Hot Pot
Eating hot pot (火锅) with Benji and Sarah
CSI students waiting to leave for the Temple of Heaven
CSI students on our way to the Temple of Heaven