Written by Kelsey, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for JSA Diplomat Program in Beijing, Summer 2018*
OMG. Camp is ending?! Whaaaat? No way. I finally got over my jet lag! I don’t want it to be over just yet!
Kelsey here. I wrote the first blog post, and I guess I’m writing the last one too.
I think, to say the least, that everyone has learned so much about themselves and China during their time here. One of the program participants said that their perspective on Chinese history has changed completely from what they were taught in school. One said that one of the speakers, who currently has a career in performance in China, gave them the courage to seriously consider pursuing their own career in the arts, instead of dismissing it as unrealistic. One said that they were initially unsure about coming to China, but after being here, would like to live in Beijing in the future and are going to start learning Mandarin seriously. One said that their time in China helped them convince their parents that yes, a career in China as an American was indeed possible, and it was something that they wanted in the future. Another said that they’ve already decided—they’ll be coming back next summer.
For myself, I’ve learned to be more conscientious of people who have different perspectives and who live different realities from my own. It’s easy to get caught up in our own daily lives; the bubbles that we live in. Being in China has pushed me to see outside of what I originally considered to be a “pretty solid” worldview. Some things that we, as Americans, or myself, as an American teenager, take for granted, don’t reflect the lives of our counterparts in China.
One of the Chinese high school students that we met in Shanghai told me how he has to fly to Singapore in the fall in order to take the SAT, because it is not offered in China and he wants to attend college in America. If he wants to take the SAT multiple times, he’ll have to fly to Singapore and back each time. I took the SAT three times, and I remember complaining about driving an hour to get to the testing center in Connecticut. His dream school is the University of Chicago. His English is impeccable. In America there exists a sort of “us” and “everyone else” mentality. So much goes on during the day-to-day that it’s easy to forget about those on the other side of the planet. I was so struck by how similar we were—worried about the college process, joking about admissions and school—yet he faced very different challenges than I did.
I also met another Chinese student whose English name was Potato. Go figure.
I’ve learned, additionally, that there’s more to life than aspiring for a nine-to-five job that pays a good salary, has benefits, and lets you sleep 7-8 hours a night. Having a “good job” means that you’re constantly learning, and that every and any task you do teaches you something—many skills are interdisciplinary and transferable, after all. Patience and good humor are essential in China. Studying language 15 minutes a day is much more effective than two hours once a week. The sound of an accent is the sound of courage. You can get that dream job, whatever it may be, if you leave your options open and are okay with a bit of uncertainty. Putting yourself out there, even just a little at a time, writing thank-you notes, and being able to call someone and speak confidently, can help you out quite a bit in life. Maybe these are things I could have eventually learned in the states, but I’m glad that I learned them this past month in China.
I’m going to miss Beijing Union University. I can finally order mango juice for my sister and I at the cafeteria! Say it with me, “请给我两杯芒果汁” (please give me two cups of mango juice, pronounced qing gei wo liang bei mang guo zhi). I feel like we’ve come full circle here, haha.
Before you go, here’s how to fit all of those souvenirs into your suitcase along with some general packing tips.
- Roll your clothes when packing!!! Make sure you pack them into your suitcase tightly. You’ll be surprised by how much space you free up.
- If you’re packing something fragile, surround it/stuff it with your rolled clothes.
- Use plastic bags/cheap shower caps to pack your shoes, so your clothes don’t get dirty. Then pack extra plastic bags, because you never think you need one until you don’t have one.
- If you use them, invest in a good sleep-mask/eye-mask for travel. It makes a world of a difference.
- If you come to China, everyone drinks tea or hot water because you have to boil the tap water before drinking it. Also, tea is awesome. Bring a thermos, or buy one here.
All the best, everyone. I’ll miss all of the friends that I’ve made here, and am amazed at how much we’ve all experienced together. Thank you so much to all of the wonderful staff from both JSA and CET that made this experience possible. It’s been fun. I hope we meet again in the future!
*The JSA Diplomat Program runs alongside Pre-College at CET Beijing programs: International Career Pathways and Chinese Technology and Entrepreneurship.