First Month in Beijing

The moment I touched down at Beijing’s Capital International Airport, the hustle and bustle of the 22 million-person metropolis gripped me and didn’t let go. After a grueling layover in Seattle made longer by delays and an 11-hour flight, the familiar sounds and smells of the People’s Republic wafted over my senses at the airport and welcomed me back. I found my contact and we grabbed a cab to Beijing University. It was nearly 2 am when we finally breached the Haidian District of Beijing and got to my new home. By then I was exhausted and ready to crash. After talking with the staff at Beijing University, or Beida for short, and getting my room card, I open the door to my room to find a girl sleeping inside! Me and the teacher who picked me up rushed back downstairs and discovered that my room had accidentally been given out to a different student. They gave me a temporary room for that night, then we swapped rooms the next day. It was probably 3 am when I finally fell asleep, and all  students had to meet up around 8 the next morning for tours of the campus and surrounding areas. Our new teachers herded us  around the Beida campus, which really gripped me. The school is mostly made up of traditional-style buildings, beautiful pathways, and the famous WeiMing Hu, a large, stunning lake in the centre of the Beida campus. WeiMing Hu roughly translates in English to “Nameless Lake”.

Our classrooms are in the History Department on the North end of the lake. After the tours during the weekend, we took our placement tests and began classes that Monday. Four other students  and I were placed into the 500 level courses. After two days of classes, I realized the courses were a bit above my pay grade, so I spoke to my teachers about switching down. Two other students felt the same way, so after the three of us swapped down to the 410 class, they opened up a new course just for us three: 411 courses. When the 411 classes started on the second week, we all felt we were at the appropriate level. However, our daily homework load was a tad overwhelming. After talking with oA tall tower in Beijing, China.ur truly kind and incredible teachers, they held back the workload a bit. By the third week, we all had settled into our courses just fine.

From an intercultural communications perspective, taking courses in the Chinese style has been very fascinating.  At first, our young teachers took a very Chinese approach to our lessons; that is, one with a rather large power distance and a lot of lecturing with little student intervention. After a week or two, however, we students and our teachers happily met in the middle as everyone got more and more comfortable with our respective roles. 

Our program has already taken us to some fascinating places! We went to the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven. Both days were absolutely gorgeous,

The Great Wall of ChinaIn fact, the pollution in Beijing has been, for the most part, very minimal–especially when compared with the last time I was in Beijing in 2015. I had been to the Wall before, but it is always a truly amazing sight to see such an old and significant structure trail along the mountainside on a clear blue day. There truly is nothing else in the world like it. The Temple of Heaven was incredible! An absolutely clear blue sky greeted us to Tiantan Yuan, or the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing. 

Of course, I have done a little traveling of my own. A few weeks ago, I took the high-speed rail to Tianjin, a port city not far from Beijing to meet my oldest Chinese friend. I met her 5 or so years ago when I was in middle school, and she was the first Chinese friend I’d ever made.

 She sparked my interest in China and is the reason I’m here today. Seeing her and hanging out with her was an amazing experience, and since she’s so close we’ve been going back and forth between Beijing and Tianjin to hangout. This last week was the Mid-Autumn Festival here in China, so I took advantage of the break to go with my friends to Shanghai! Shanghai is truly and incredible city. A mix of old and new, foreign and Chinese, all of it can be found within China’s largest city. The Bund, the modern and sleek Shanghai skyline, pierces through the heart of the city. The old French Concession–an area of Shanghai once controlled by France–would make you think you were walking the streets of Paris. Old Shanghai includes the Yu Yuan Garden, and in the suburbs you can find an ancient village called ZhuJiaJiao, complete with canals, small alley ways with tea shops and massage parlors, and excellent food.

an ancient village called ZhuJiaJiao

So far, my experience studying here in the Middle Kingdom has truly broadened my perspectives. I’m so glad to be back here, and there will be more stories to come.