Learning Experiences

Studying abroad in Beijing has been a learning experience.  No one here has progressed much in a single day but, looking back to the beginning of our trip, I’ve noticed some significant changes. I, personally, am much more confident using the little bit of Chinese I do know.  I also feel adjusted to living in a major city which I’ve never done before.  I was trying to think of a more interesting way to convey this idea and I decided to use some videos I have of Jared and Adam to explain my point…

Jared and Adam attempting to ride a bike.

Jared and Adam attempting to ride a bike.


For anyone that doesn’t know, we all have bikes at Tsinghua because the campus is so big.  Some of these bikes have seats on the back of them.  During our first couple of days, when some people had bikes and some didn’t, we tried to perfect the art of carrying someone on our bike and we had some mixed results.  Just like using these bikes when we first arrived, we were clueless as to how many things worked.  I couldn’t order food when I first got here.  Every time we went to McDonald’s, I had to point at the pictures and hope they were good at charades. We also didn’t know how to use the public transportation, how to use the toilets, and basically, how to live in Beijing.  We were awkward but we started to get better.

This next video is what we must have looked like a few weeks into our trip.  We had some idea of what we were doing but we still weren’t doing it right.  I could say “Big Mac” in Chinese but I still couldn’t say french fries.  I was afraid to use Chinese at my research site but I could now get there confidently.  Instead of going to the expensive dining hall next door every day, we had found the cheap one next to our classroom building.  We were making progress.

The last video I have wraps up all of this very well.  “Practice makes perfect.”  Five weeks in, I can say I want a Big Mac Meal and I’m going to have it to go.  Or, maybe I want a spicy chicken sandwich so I say that instead.  We also know that the cheap dining hall has four floors with different styles of food.  This past week, we had to interview people at our field sites and every single one of us was able to approach someone and ask them personal questions.  After five weeks, we are still the farthest things from experts on Beijing but we can live here comfortably.  We aren’t tourists but rather students.  As we keep practicing, we are going to get better at living here and speaking Chinese. Maybe by the end of this trip I’ll be able to add a video with Jared driving with no hands…