Written by Bita Kavoosi, (Colorado College) Student Correspondent CET Beijing: Internship, Fall 2018
It has been a busy month in Beijing. I just finished my first month of work at my internship at the UN World Food Programme and can definitively say that it is a great experience at an impactful organization. I am learning so much about food security in China, and the efforts the World Food Programme Beijing Office is making to ensure that SDG2 (no hunger) is met. It is a valiant and progressive goal that is important to reach. After all, in a world with such vast resources and wealth, there is no reason anyone should be hungry, or have to choose between food and housing. I am beyond happy that I can work at an organization doing so much to improve the world we live in.
Since my last post, I went to Hangzhou, which was absolutely beautiful, and continued my exploration of Beijing. To get to Hangzhou, we took an overnight train, which was a new and exciting experience for me. Since tea is grown in Hangzhou, we went to a restaurant connected to a tea field. At the restaurant, we ate dishes cooked with tea leaves (delicious) and bought tea leaves (good prices). Later on when I explored the city with friends, I ate the famous Dongpo pork dish, among other delicacies. I also went on a boat tour of the famous lake, and went to the top of the Leifeng Pagoda. At night, the views of Hangzhou from the Pagoda were stunning, and were one of the best parts of the trip. A few weekends later, during the national holiday long weekend, my roommate and I visited the Temple of Heaven. It was beautiful, with temperate weather and surprisingly few tourists for the long weekend. It is so exciting to be able to visit historic sites to get hands-on learning with my classes that I would only be able to read about if I was not studying in China. It is also incredible that I can practice my (limited) Chinese with people on the streets and in the shops, which I would not be able to do if I was studying Chinese in the US; it’s nice to not only gain more practical speaking experience, but also to make an effort to communicate with people in their native language. As a study abroad student, I am here to appreciate and respect the culture, and doing my best to speak the language goes hand in hand with showing respect.
Because I’ve been exploring the culture and sights of China, mostly in Beijing, I have some advice for study abroad students, regardless of where you go: Keep a travel scrapbook. I decided to keep one a few weeks after arriving in Beijing, so I turned to Taobao to find one. In my experience, Taobao is a confusing website since so many of the listings have such different prices but feature the same photos of the items. However, I am lucky to have an amazing roommate (Feng Fan, AKA Favorite Friend) who found one, and a set of fun pens to write in it with. Putting all of the tickets you collect in it and writing your experiences will definitely keep your memory of the semester fresh, and give you a fun, relatively cheap, very personalized souvenir to show to your family and friends back home. I regretted not making my scrapbook while I studied abroad this summer, and came home with a bunch of mementos and a limited recollection of my memories to put into the scrapbook I planned on making when I came home.
Bring some washi tape, stickers, and nice pens, and make the scrapbook/ticket collection gradually throughout the semester so it is not as daunting of a task when you return home. Not only will your scrapbook be a beautiful memory holder, it will also be a good stress reliever from your language studies, internship, and other coursework! If making a full-on scrapbook seems excessive or is not your style, consider keeping a journal wherein you write what you do during the days you travel or a photo-journal. There are so many options personal to you, but I definitely recommend finding some way to keep your memories of the trip long-lasting, since I promise you they will blur together over the course of the semester.