After traveling thousands of miles from Gainesville, Florida, to Beijing, China, most would think that I would have encountered a multitude of dangers. And maybe, you’d be right, as evidenced by the great lengths gone to in the name of airport security and the like. There is one danger, however, that I was not warned about during my preparation for the UF in Beijing program. It is a warning that should printed in the ever-hallowed Pre-Departure Guide and heeded by visitors to The Red Dragon. Publicly used automatic doors (e.g. elevators, subways) open and close very quickly. I’m not kidding. The worst incident was when I was exiting at a subway stop, and the doors decided that I should become more acquainted with the elderly woman passing by me. My trademark beanie went flying and she let out an eerie-sounding yelp. It was representative of the several similar incidents many of my students and co-volunteers witnessed in their time with me.
Joking aside, I think of the closing doors as a grander metaphor for life at Tsinghua English Summer Camp. If it was reduced to a marketable, cliché-able maxim, it would be “never stop moving.” I am proud to say that not in the time that I have spent in China have I felt like I have stopped moving. Not only did this allow me experience everything that I possibly could have in my brief time there, but I feel that it really was key to the immersion that I experienced there. I am working a 9-to-5 job, spending time watching the World Cup, managed to fit in plenty of debate work, in essence, all of the things that I would have done had I been “home.” I feel as though I am really living in Beijing, and that is why I will remember my time here well into the foreseeable future. I’ll leave at that to spare you all an explicitly sappy reference to my rather extensive thoughts on mortality.
To those who will embark upon this journey as I did, I ask that you commit fully to immersing yourself in it. To those who are on this this journey with me now and are now reflecting upon it, I ask that you ask yourself if you are doing the same. If no, then, why not? Is the immersion framing for traveling bad? Is there something better? Sometimes reflection is the best part of experiences like UF in Beijing. Here’s to many more days at the Tsinghua English Summer Camps to come!