Written by Bita Kavooski, (Colorado College) Student Correspondent CET Beijing, Fall 2018
This is my final blog. It feels surreal to be saying that since I really didn’t believe this semester would ever come to an end. And yet this semester never really felt real either…more like a super long dream.
I am now working on my final projects and studying for final exams since this is my final week in China. In honor of that, I will share some utility-maximizing tricks I picked up this semester so that anyone studying in China through CET can get the most from their experience in a way that I did not realize I could.
First off, if you are in a CET program that gives you a reimbursement for weekly cultural activities, you can save up that money to go on an expensive excursion for up to two weeks. I didn’t realize we could save at all, but then, when I found out that we could, I wrongly assumed we could save it indefinitely. However, you can only save it for two weeks. My friend and I used that money to pay for half of a cooking class at the Hutong (the other half we paid ourselves) where we learned how to make hongshao rou, stir fried vegetables, and mouth watering chicken.
Second, if you are planning to go on any semester abroad, I recommend coming up with a list of activities you want to do and places you want to see before going to your host country. When you arrive and receive your class schedule, you can start planning when you will do each activity so that you can make sure you get the full experience you wanted and so that you can maximize how much reimbursement money you can get from CET.
Why go to a cooking class and the Peking Opera in two weeks when it would be better to save two weeks’ worth of reimbursement money for each of those, and thus pay the smallest amount possible to do the highest number of activities possible? I can’t speak for everyone, but most of the people I did this program with also are in the same boat as me where we all procrastinated on going out to do fun activities, and are now realizing that we have not experienced the touristy parts of Beijing as much as we would have hoped to.
In our final two weeks, we are cramming in a full vacation’s worth of activities in addition to doing our classwork and preparing for finals week. Doing this is taking a lot of careful planning (which I am very good at when there is something I want to accomplish), but my friends and I share the sentiment that we goofed. How can we study abroad in China and not see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City? How can we not try the sticks of meat available at Wangfujing Snack Street? How can we not explore Beijing’s famous Beihei and Jingshan parks? It is taking a lot of careful time management to achieve all of these goals, but weare slowly getting through everything we need to do before we go home.
Lastly, a semester abroad definitely should not be the same as a semester at one’s home institution, and students should not focus only on studying when there is so much culture to explore. People keep telling me that I spent too much of this semester studying when I should have been out meeting new people and exploring the culture. Those people might be right. I am doing that now, but I wish I had realized the importance of putting effort into going out to experience the culture sooner. The learning experiences and culture won’t come to you, you must go find it yourself.
Establish a balance between work and exploration early on, since the semester abroad is far more meaningful if you actually learn from where you are, and gain immeasurable value from your travel experiences. I have no regrets from this semester since I am doing everything I wanted to do now, and learned so much from my Chinese class and internship, but still want to share my advice so that others may not face a similar predicament at the end of the semester and be forced into strict time management. Loosely manage your time early on so you don’t have to be so hard on yourself later, or, even worse, not get to experience everything you wanted to before leaving your host country.