Every CET Beijing student is paired with a 语伴 (yǔ bàn), or language partner, to facilitate a smoother transition to life in Beijing and to aid with language growth and acquisition. Many yǔ bàn grab dinner with us, help us study for our exams, and take us to their favorite spots in Beijing. My yǔ bàn, 晋铭 (Jìn Míng), quickly became one of my closest mentors and friends in China.
I arrived at 中国房子 (literally named “China House”), our dorm in 首师大 (Capital Normal University), at 7 AM on June 8th, and before I even had time to unpack a suitcase, one of my CET friends let me know that Jìn Míng, a master’s student at CNU, was waiting for me in the lobby of 中国房子.
A photo I took of 中国房子 (zhōngguó fángzi, “China House”) on the morning I arrived in Beijing.
Accompanied by another Yale-China Fellow and her yǔ bàn (Jìn Míng’s roommate), we ventured to the school’s 餐厅 ( cafeteria) for breakfast. In between stuffing my face with 油条 (yóutiáo, deep-fried dough, a common breakfast food in China) and 生煎包 (shēng jiān bāo, pan-fried buns), I bombarded Jìn Míng with questions, eager to learn more about her and her life in China. We talked about our families, hometowns, and what we liked to do in our free time.
My first breakfast in Beijing (and with Jìn Míng)! 油条 (yóutiáo, deep-fried dough), 生煎包 (shēng jiān bāo, pan-fried buns), and 鸡蛋 (jīdàn, egg).
In the following weeks, Jìn Míng truly went above and beyond to support me and help me adjust to Beijing. She accompanied me to the nearest Bank of Beijing (which is unfortunately quite far from CNU) to help me set up my debit card after I forgot my passport when the CET group went a couple of days earlier. She helped me set up all of the essential apps (JD, Táobǎo, Gāodé Maps, Měituán). She took me to play badminton with her roommates because she knew I liked to play it with my family. And on Thursdays, after my classes ended, she would spend hours helping me edit and practice my 报告 (bàogào, report) for our weekly oral exams.
Jìn Míng and her three roommates (all yǔ bàn) took two of my friends and me to a nearby mall for some 冰粉 (bīng fěn, shaved ice) dessert.
Three weeks ago, Jìn Míng took me to 玉渊潭公园 (Yùyuāntán Park), where we walked for hours and talked about everything from our ideal types (we found out we are pretty much looking for the same person) to different expectations our parents had for us when we were growing up.
Three weeks ago, Jìn Míng took me to 玉渊潭公园 (Yùyuāntán Park), close to CNU.
Jìn Míng truly became one of my closest friends in Beijing. She would always be willing to answer any questions I had, no matter how silly or serious it might have been. In my far-from-perfect Chinese, I would tell her how I felt that day and what new event was happening in CET. We have had so many conversations about our lives and hopes for our futures and so many memories of us laughing hysterically in the middle of sidewalks in different Beijing neighborhoods.
Two of my friends and I treated our yǔ bàn to a Western-style brunch to thank them for being such amazing yǔ bàn and friends.
Unfortunately, every CET student changes yǔ bàn in the middle of the program, and Jìn Míng left to go home for summer break last week. The day before she left, she treated me to dinner and took me shopping for snacks and water for CET’s upcoming trip to Chengdu (keep an eye out for my Chengdu blog post!).
The day before Jìn Míng left Beijing for summer break, she treated me to dinner.
When we said goodbye, I started getting really emotional. She bought me a bracelet—blue because she remembered that I love oceans and lakes (a result of growing up in landlocked Missouri). She told me I could stay at her home during the holidays and that she would also visit me in 安徽 (Anhui), where I will be teaching for the next two years. She also thanked me for helping her see more of her own value and worth.
The bracelet Jìn Míng bought me on the day that she left.
I am so grateful to have met such a kind and caring friend so early on in my two-year stay in China. We truly could be ourselves around each other and talk and laugh about everything. Sure, there was a language barrier at times, but Jìn Míng was never judgmental and was always willing to help me look up a new vocabulary word and let me take my time when I tried to find the right way to say something in Chinese.
One of the highlights of my summer was meeting Jìn Míng and forming this true friendship. Her support, guidance, and care have made a lasting impact on my experience with CET and in China. I am already counting down the days until the next time we meet.
Jìn Míng and me!