After nervous goodbyes with friends and family, packing up a year’s worth of photographs, clothes, and other knickknacks from home, and one fourteen-hour plane ride across the Pacific Ocean, I am finally here! Now that I am firmly settled with a wonderful host family just north of Wudaokou (五道口) , I am slowly starting to make myself at home again. The city of Beijing is a sharp contrast to that of Seattle, and the most curious (and sometimes the most simple) differences catch my eye, make me look twice. In the first two weeks I have been here, I’ve found that there is no such thing as an ordinary day – every day has continued to bring its own challenges, adventures, and rewards.
I first came to Beijing with the Lotus Educational Foundation in the summer of 2009. After studying Chinese for a year at the University of Washington, I was looking to spend the summer in Beijing to improve my Chinese. I stumbled across Lotus while searching for summer study abroad programs. They made the application process so painless that as soon as my sophomore year of university ended, I was on a plane headed to Beijing with no idea what to expect. Needless to say, I had a fabulous time. I can confidently attest that living with a host family, apart from being a marvelous experience in itself, is by far the best way to learn Chinese. I spent three months studying at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), living with a Chinese family, traveling around as much as my Chinese would allow, and quickly learning to get by in a world of an entirely different language, culture, and way of life.
So, when I was looking to return to Beijing after my graduation from the UW, I knew that I didn’t have far to look. My welcome back to Lotus was just as warm as it was two years ago, and since being back, I have been learning the ropes of working as an intern here at the non-profit Lotus Educational Foundation. I am also studying at Beijing Language and Culture University in the morning, and since classes started last week, I have been struck with a mixture of both fear and elation at how fast my classes seem to be moving. Fear, because I have more and more characters to learn every night for class. Elation, because my Chinese already seems to be improving quickly!
Between classes, my homestay, working with Lotus, and trying all the while to navigate Beijing with my rusty Chinese (I feel like I might fit in well at a pre-school right now, as far as speaking and writing goes), I am filled with nothing but excitement for the future of my time in Beijing.