Most summer days in Beijing I’d tread to work early in the mornings then come home to meet friends to enjoy the freshly polluted air, the sweet bites of bugs, and juice from the watermelon. All of which are gone now that the temperatures have sunk below 10 degrees Celsius.
The thrills of meeting new people, the exhilarating pace of a new life, and the baggage of the past forgotten makes moving abroad an adventure of a lifetime.
This wouldn’t be my first move abroad. Growing up my mother and I traveled around the world during the summers. She is a Spanish teacher so she easily had summers off. We would travel across Europe, Central America, and Asia. I had grown up accustomed to airports, trains, language barriers, travel budgeting, and understanding and respecting different social norms.
My first solo move was to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for my first co-op as an English teacher. I spent 6 months abroad in a country where I could not speak the language at all. What I learned from there was how to interact with the local people. In fact, my best friends were no other foreigners, but were the Vietnamese people themselves.
My second solo move was to Beijing. Adjusting from working in Beijing to attending school in Beijing is actually more challenging than I thought. Why? Here are my reasons:
- There is free time, and sometimes I don’t know how to spend it. My co-op in Beijing cost me 12 hours of my day from 10:00AM-10:00PM for five days per week. I barely had free time. Now, I typically have 1-2 classes per day for a total of 3 days of classes. This means I have more free days than school days which is honestly a blessing. Why is this a challenge? Adjusting to more free time means spending more time alone, or going out, or putting off assignments because I “have more time to do them”. All of which can be costly. Lesson: spend your time wisely.
- People are in a rush for friends. As a foreigner you will realize you will make friends quicker than usual. This has its pros and cons. I do believe humans are social beings, we crave the comforts of others and desire the need to express ourselves. We want to be accepted and we want to be remembered. However, the surge of friendship will be tested throughout your time in university. People will eventually filter into their own groups. As for me? I have found many groups, but have I found people I truly fit in with? No, and that’s okay. Subconsciously, we do not want to be forgotten or left out. Lesson: FOMO is a real thing.
- Living in Beijing before school made me see the real Beijing. You will not get the full experience of Beijing or Chinese way of life by living in the dorms, around other foreigners, and students. After being here and living on my own, dealing with renovations, being evicted from my first house, then finding a Chinese agent and moving into my own apartment, and traveling on my own made me closer and connected with the community. I have learned that student life at a university is very different than living here as an individual. You must pay rent, deal with the landlord (who might not speak English), find your local grocery store because you don’t have a meal plan, navigate the city solo because you don’t live with other foreigners, keep in touch with your employer, and pay electricity. Bottom line: No, you will not experience the real Chinese way of life but student life is amazing and take advantage of it.
While I’m here I hope to make the most of my free time. I want to experience my life as a student here, make friends, cultivate new memories, and enjoy the few more months.
The Great Wall
Typical Day in Class
Outside the building of most of my classes.
No more hot days in Beijing summer…