Written by Haoyu Guo, (Grand Valley State University) Student Correspondent CET Beijing, Summer 2017
Being in another country surrounded by the unknown can be daunting for anyone. All the foreign noises, unknown food and different smells come together to blind your senses and can make you lose your way. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the language, the people and the situation itself. Sometimes it’s easy to laugh the confusion off and refocus and other times it takes a bit more effort to find yourself again.
While being abroad in China or anywhere is exhilarating with the new culture, sight, food and people–it can really drain a person without them even knowing. Here in China, everything seems to be going at a fast pace that doesn’t feel too much when you are living it day to day with the mantra “go, go, GO!” in your head, but it’s easy to notice the tension and stress that has built up in your body once you slow down and think about what you’ve done recently. It’s like the light bulb finally lights up and it clicks that everything from the amazing people in the group to just being in China is amazing, but a bit too much. It feels like you’re in a blanket cocoon and you really don’t notice it’s getting stuffy until it gets uncomfortable. At that time, it’s better to stop and find something you enjoy doing so you can relax. Don’t let others or yourself stop you from doing something that makes you feel relaxed and you again. Take the time to explore the city by yourself or with a few close friends, enjoy snacks and tea, call your family and friends to catch up or just sit down to read one of your favorite books, just do something that relaxes and makes you feel better. There’s always more time later to do explore the country, but it’s more important to take care of yourself. To paraphrase one of the teachers at CET, you have up days and down days or up/down days, but you just need to get through them.
For me when I’m overwhelmed by how busy and fast life is in China and feeling as if I spent too much time outside my comfort zone, I like to enjoy tea and be alone. I need quiet that others can’t disturb, so for me the best way to calm down and release all the stress is to go take a walk. One of my convoluted “walks” eventually ended up taking me to the Temple of Heaven where I just wandered around at my own pace and enjoyed everything in my own manner without having the need to rush. It was incredible to just wander off and not worry about being lost while also not having to play catch up with a group. I tend to walk slower to enjoy the atmosphere of an area, so I need more time to be able to appreciate the sites. I also enjoyed the picturesque areas within the complex as I wandered around. This combined with the nice cool breezy weather and tiring 3-hour walk released all the tension that had been building up. I ended up spending all afternoon there before making my way back to the Capital Normal University Campus. Because I took the personal time to relax and did something for myself, now I am ready to fully experience the rest of my time here in China.
So, don’t ever worry about taking personal time to do whatever you want, even if it means hunting down a good burger joint to enjoy a western meal, binge on Netflix all night or just stay in, there’s always the next time that you will get the chance to do something while you’re abroad. If you’re unhappy, it can make the rest of the trip just stressful, not the adventure it’s supposed to be. Enjoy yourself and your time is only your time so you can organize it in whatever way you want with or without others’ input.
P.S: As a tip, bring something that is relaxing to you may it be just a favorite candy, teabags or a book. They are treasures that make any day even better. A nice hot cup of tea when stressed or chocolate sometimes is the only thing that will motivate me to get started on my day and not sleep the day away. Those small little comforts are what makes any trip run more smoothly.