Written by Irene, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Beijing Summer 2019
Have you ever gone into a trip telling yourself that you better make the most of it? As we finish up our final week in Beijing, I can’t help but ask myself the question: Have you made the most of your time in China? If I were to answer that question now, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’ve seen so many great things, but there are times in which you can go see the grandest of things in any given location, and yet doing so wouldn’t mean you’ve made the most of your time there. I have been using my time to reflect on what I’ve done, who I’ve met, and what I’ve learned because reflection allows for me to not only appreciate all I have done, but in this case also help me determine whether I have made most of my time here.
In terms of what I have done, I tried to make note of my trip’s highlights. What did I do that left an impact on me? Visiting historically significant places like the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, 798 Art District, and the Yu Garden was phenomenal, but I feel as if what has made this stay even more memorable were the less touristy activities I engaged in.
Trying the local cuisine, taking a few tai chi and calligraphy classes, dancing with the seniors in the park during the evening, going on scavenger hunts with my language buddies, practicing my mandarin with strangers, performing for seniors at the Tuanjiehu Cultural Center, and watching a bilingual impromptu comedy show are activities that made this trip so impressionable. I’ve been made to feel connected to the community here through these experiences in a short amount of time.
Now as for who I have met, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting fourteen brilliant students, our three group leaders, and two professors; each unbelievably unique in nature and upbringing. I have also met amazing language teachers and partners who helped me with my language proficiency more than they probably realize. The guest speakers we saw were amazing in both quantity and content spoken. On the downside, however, as someone who loves meeting new people every day, but who is not very proficient in Chinese, I found myself discouraged at times. This language barrier prohibited me from being able to approach strangers and make conversation with them the I had been so used to. Despite this challenge, I tried my best and the few strangers that I was able to meet along the way were especially memorable.
My time here has taught me Chinese language and history in the classroom. I can properly introduce myself or a friend in mandarin as well as explain to you historically how and when the People’s Republic of China was formed, but there were many lessons I received outside the classroom that I believe are just as important. I was able to learn problem solving when technology decided to fail me, but there was homework to attend to. I learned the transportation systems in China, as well as took note of the time rush hour takes over the subway. I learned of culture shock, forming a sense of identity abroad, and reverse culture shock. I was taught how to dance to xiao ping guo. The art of shameless behavior was a concept that I was made sure to witness. I thought I had an idea of what sort of things I would be learning while in China but I ultimately learned that and more.
So with all that, do you think I made the most of my time in China? The ‘what, who, what’ reflection is a nice tool I have made for myself when trying to determine whether I have spent my time wisely during a trip. This program has offered me so many opportunities to utilize my time here, and I have tried my best to do so. Now looking back and reflecting on my time here, I would like to say that I have made the most of my time here to the best of my ability.