I’m home. Were the first words I whispered while bumbling down the plane runway. I returned to Beijing on a new student X2 visa, luggage packed with winter clothes, and a heart longing for the brisk Beijing air. I entered the gates of Tsinghua University for the first time on Wednesday the 12th of September, I realized student life will be a lot different than my previous 6 months of interning in Beijing.
‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ Says Dorothy. No, I was not in America. In fact, I have not been in America for the past seven and a half months. I’ve been on my co-op in Beijing, and this exchange program is a continuation of my time here. So what have I learned so far?
Top 5 Things I’ve learned after seven months in Beijing:
- Culture-shock will slowly take hold of you the longer you’re here. I began to realize different mannerisms and social etiquette later during my travels and the more I socialized with Chinese people.
- Being a woman-of-color and a foreigner in a homogenous society, the people will treat you very differently from the average Western traveler. I’ve had many people completely deny that I am American, even when I tell them I am American. Many people will base their judgments on you by the way you look and not by what you say.
- It’s easy to feel out of the loop. Beijing is a huge city, access to WIFI and internet is sometimes impossible, and the Great Firewall of China makes access to news, academic articles, and social media extremely frustrating and aggravating. Keeping up with current events throughout the world is challenging.
- People in China want to know what you think of China. People will argue that China is a modern country, others will argue otherwise. You may come across Chinese people who want to challenge you and your ideas of China, people want to know your opinion of China, just be careful of what you say.
- Beijing is a ferocious beast of a city, dark and daunting, but with each passing day the fear of getting lost and losing yourself only lingers in the back of your mind. Beijing is breathtaking.
Many of these things may seem like the negatives of China. Yes, it’s been hard living here and some days feel longer than a night train to Chicago. Some nights you might feel lost in a cement slathered city, other days you might feel like the spirit of the Qing Dynasty has awakened inside of you. In this blog space I hope to bring life to the realities, both harsh and true, of living as a foreigner and as an exchange student in Beijing.