Written by Hugo R, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Beijing: International Career Pathways
I have reached the midpoint of CET Beijing and it is sad to see how much time has passed. They do say time flies when you’re having fun! It feels just like yesterday that I stepped off my thirteen-hour flight, tired and in need of a shower, lost in the second busiest airport in the world. After frantically asking multiple airport employees for directions, and a bus ride that felt like an eternity, I found the group.
What some might think of as the hardest part of this program, making friends, suddenly became the easiest and best part of this trip. There was an instant connection between all of us while we were seated in a circle on the airport floor. These students, from all over the country, are some of the kindest people I have ever met, a group that would put others before themselves even though they had just met two weeks earlier.
Immersion in this culture has been a very interesting process. Luckily, I have not gone through any culture shock. The easiest way to immerse in the Chinese culture and speak the language is to talk to the children. Ever since we were told that people might ask us to take photos at Tian’anmen Square, kids have helped me with the language. Most of the young kids that I talk to, at a public park or at a temple, do not speak much Mandarin. This makes it easy to answer basic questions like, “Where are you from?”, and hold simple conversations. From what I see, the kids love talking to foreigners too, so we each get something out of the small conversations. Parents also love these interactions.
There have been multiple occasions where we will be out and parents will “throw” their kids at a friend in our group to take a photo. It feels good to have your fifteen minutes of fame while random people take your photo and often the parents will talk to you as well. This allows for more practice of the language. Personally, my favorite way to connect with the kids is though sports. Whether it be 篮球 (basketball) or 足球 (soccer), there is no longer a language boundary because we are just there to play.
Sports connect everyone together and soccer especially for it is considered to be the sport of the world. I have had an amazing experience in Beijing so far and I cannot wait for what is next as we all go into the second half of this program.