This is to be my last post as a study abroad correspondent and I just wanted to take the time to both provide some final thoughts on this semester and then also push Beijing as a place to study!
The week before returning to the United States seemed to be spent running from back and forth throughout the city, trying to do every last minute activity we could. When someone would ask me what I would miss about Beijing, or what I was looking forward to back home, many times what first came to mind was food, for both questions. In Beijing you can find food from all over the world, or all over China, and I am desperately going to miss all the variety! I found a love for Korean hotpot and barbecue that I will actively pursue back in the U.S.! I’ll miss the make-your-own noodle restaurants, baozi joints, and Korean bakeries. I’ll even miss the American barbecue restaurant over by the embassy district, because being from Illinois there aren’t too many of those! We rushed around the last week trying to juggle finishing the semester with fitting in the last of the things we wanted to do before leaving. I had a day where I woke up at 5a.m. to go see the flag raising ceremony in Tiananmen (1 hour subway from campus), only to have to go back to campus for eight hours of class and take a final.
But out of everything I am going to miss all the friends I’ve made this semester most of all, and the amazing city I called home for almost four months. I was driven to Beijing for its history and international prestige, and it was everything I had ever hoped. In Beijing, you can go into a hutong and see shadows of old Beijing, but also see changes being made almost overnight to its skyline. New buildings and construction are being completed at a rapid pace, but Beijing still manages to preserve so much of its history. I love places where the old meets new, and Beijing offers so much of that.
To go along with my Beijing pitch, I jut want to reiterate how much there is to do in Beijing. In a city of probably 21 million people, there is bound to be activities for everyone. The university district in northwest Beijing has all sorts of academic events as well as food from all over China. The embassy district naturally has food from all over the world and provides a little taste of home. Shopping is everywhere, consumerism is rampant in China now and you can find clothing for any tastes. And then of course there are all kinds of cultural sites, museums, temples, palaces, tombs, etc. China is also a fairly cheap place to travel so if time allows you can go just about anywhere (Not North Korea, just don’t, stick with the North Korean restaurants instead if you’re curious!)
A couple notes about ending a study abroad. There is no way to prepare for the jet lag that grips you the week following your return. On the way to China jet lag is nice because you get up at about 5:30a.m. each day and get your day started. On the way back it isn’t that convenient. You fall asleep early, 5:30pm early. It’s taken almost a week and I’m just getting back to being able to stay up until 11pm. Don’t plan anything too crazy the week after you get back, because you’re not going to want to do it.
Also a quick side note, the Beijing airport is not known for being timely, ARRIVE at the airport four hours before your flight, three hours is not always sufficient. My airport experience was like a movie, and sprinting through is not nearly as fun as it sounds.
On another note, get squared away on all the connections you’ve made over the semester. Find out what your friends are going to be doing upon returning, get their contact information for when you are back in the land of cell service. It is easy for a semester abroad to be like a dream that possibly could have not happened at all, you want to make sure that everything you’ve done over the course of a semester comes back with you.
Going along with that, take some time to really reflect on what you’ve gotten out of the semester. What skills have you gained form studying abroad that perhaps set you apart from others? You might not have realized it, but just being abroad, living in another culture, has given you a perspective that will be invaluable to future employers. Take the time to identify what you’ve learned and make it work for you.
I hope everyone enjoyed hearing about China this semester; it has certainly been a pleasure sharing my experience. China is an amazing country, and of course is very relevant to today’s global society (hint hint), I hope more people get a chance to experience it!